The European fresh produce industry needs to pluck up the courage to act differently in order to rethink marketing and communication strategies and better use mediums like social media to engage with consumers. That was the stand-out message from the Freshfel annual conference held in Brussels, Belgium last week. Here, Produce Business UK brings you all the details
“Investing in fresh fruit and vegetables is investing in our future,” stated Luc Clerx, president of Freshfel. “Consumers are aware of the healthy aspects of fruit and vegetables, but more can be done to promote the fun and positive effects of produce.”
Even an increase in consumption of as little as 10 grams per capita per day would drive the sector towards greater stability and move consumers towards healthier habits, pointed out Stephan Weist, Freshfel’s vice-president and Rewe Group’s director of category management for fruit, vegetables, flowers and plants. “But we still need to be more ambitious as the potential for increasing consumption remains huge all around Europe,” he added.
As such, Freshfel is urging the sector to continue to move ahead to stimulate consumption and to enhance the positive image of fresh produce. To help point the industry in the right direction, next year the association will launch a landmark consumer research initiative together with support from Dole, Total Produce, Fyffes, Eurobanan, Asoex, Capespan, Fruit Logistica and Compagnie Fruitière.
Titled ‘Consumer Compass 2016’, the initiative will be an industry-led, pan-European campaign that’s based on behavioural science and focuses on health. Targeting 6,000 consumers in 12 European nations, the aim is to understand consumers and their perceptions of fresh produce, as well as the barriers and drivers of their consumption habits.
Dare to do things differently
At an individual company or sector level, meanwhile, there remain many creative ways to stimulate consumers to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.
According to Lotfi El-Ghandouri from Creative Society, first the trade needs to think differently and dare to create a new movement. “We have to go beyond innovation,” he said. “No industry is safe now. Things are moving fast and everyone is at risk.”
So, how do you compete? “We have to react, but the challenge is how we react,” El-Ghandouri said. “If we make decisions based on fear, they will not be the best decisions. We’ve learned to go with status quo – to fit with the system. Some 59% of top executives don’t want to take decisions or risk, and even 65% of young, talented people entering new jobs still don’t want to take the risk. It’s natural.
“You have to dream the impossible, push the boundaries and then you’ll reach the unexpected. You have try to do things in a different way. You have to go to a new perspective.”
El-Ghandouri claimed everyone can be creative but said the industry needs to bring back the art of curiosity, which requires consciousness. “We need to be able to stop and pause,” he said. “That’s difficult today because we’re all hyperactive and moving so fast. But we need to ask why we’re only doing things one way and not another.
“Innovation is the key to a solution. You need self esteem, wisdom, skills and will. But it’s important to make the distinction between innovation and evolution. It’s not about just adding another blade to a razor, for example. Innovation is all about impact, it’s the next level.”
To put his notion of ‘disruptive innovation’ into context, El-Ghandouri pointed out a couple of examples, including the Hovding ‘invisible’ cycling helmet developed by two Danish women after being inspired by airbags in cars. Watch this video to see the concept in action.
He also highlighted Kit Kat’s “entirely new” approach to discovering the confectionery brand in Japan where shelf space is expensive and difficult to retain. Instead of competing, Nestlé introduced ‘Kit Kat Mail’, which was deployed in 22,000 post offices overnight. Watch this video to find out more.
There, consumers could purchase Kit Kats and write hand-written notes to post the chocolate bar to friends and family, especially those sitting exams given that the word ‘Kit Kat’ sounds similar to the Japanese phrase “Kitto Katsu”, which roughly translates to mean “surely win”.
“It generated over US$11m (£7m) in free publicity, and even though exam season has passed, people are still sending Kit Kats by mail,” noted El-Ghandouri.
Rethinking marketing and communication
Political scientist and chef Samuel Levie, from Food Cabinet in the Netherlands, gave other examples of creative ways to promote fresh produce by putting across a different message that resonates with people.
His simple, low-budget Dutch campaign called ‘Big Bang Broccoli’ was a success, as was a drive called ‘Power to the Pieper’ aimed at promoting the potato as a contemporary superfood.
“We all know we should be eating more fruit and vegetables – 40% of adults are overweight and more than 12% of adults are obese, but how can we make the public more aware?,” Levie asked.
“We’re spending a lot of on programmes to get kids into sport and healthy eating. At the same time €7bn (£5bn) is spent annually in Europe to get people to eat more confectionary and junk food, and that is influencing consumers in many ways. It’s unfair competition.”
To address the issue, he came up with idea of making fruits and vegetables more ‘sexy’ with a campaign based on the six Cs of being compelling, concise, clear, connected, contrasting, credible and correct.
The strategy was to put across a good message in a visual way. Backed by a group of broccoli growers in northern Holland, Levie came up with the ‘Big Bang Broccoli’ video advert, which dares people to think differently about what they eat, to ‘break free and eat broccoli’. To provoke consumers, the advert uses various strap lines from popular advertising campaigns, mostly for junk food. Watch the video here.
“The video was watched 20,000-30,000 times in the first week of its release and 4-5 million people saw the campaign overall,” stated Levie. “A lot of people saw the truth in it. The media picked up on it and every national newspaper in the Netherlands wrote about broccoli, it was even spoken about on TV. For us, it was a really serious but very small project to get the discussion started.”
Levie said it begs the question, should fruit and vegetables be marketed in different ways? “Selling fruit and vegetables can be a social campaign but we should do it in a more interesting way,” he noted.
Hot on the heels of Big Bang Broccoli came the ‘Power to the Potato’ video campaign, backed by the Dutch Potato Organisation, which aimed to cut through the confusion of the superfood craze and what’s healthy by pointing out how nutritious potatoes are. Watch the video here. Shortly, Levie will release a new campaign for kale.
“It really worked, a lot of people saw it,” claimed Levie. “It was astonishing how quickly the media picked it up and liked the message. News programmes even showed the commercial too and there were lots of articles, including a long one in one of biggest newspapers in Holland about how we should pay attention to superfoods we have been eating for centuries.”
Using social media to engage with consumers
Daniel Fritz, a social media expert working, among others, for the European Commission, also believes the fresh produce sector can profit more by better using social media to spread positive messages about fruits and vegetables.
But to reduce the risk of a social media strategy failing and to make it more likely to succeed, Fritz recommended companies and associations should utilise a lot more data to understand who is using social media and what’s being said about fruits and vegetables.
“Social media is all about what the user wants – not what you want,” he commented. “It’s addressing users’ problems, concerns, suggestions and interests, while conveying a company’s core messages, values and identity.
“You need to know who is out there, what they want, and how you can address that,” he continued. “You need to focus on the user and understand what they’re doing. Think about how you can help them and social media will be more successful for you.”
Fritz touched on various online tools which can help marketers attain their social media goals, including: BuzzSumo, which finds the most shared content and key influencers and analyses what content performs best for any topic or competitor.
“Enter a company name or keyword on BuzzSumo and it’ll show you which words have created the most buzz on social media,” Fritz explained. “Find the relevant keywords and try to work out any trends, patterns etc.”
Fortunately for the produce industry, Fritz said during his research he found people talk a lot about fresh fruits and vegetables on social media. “When I looked there were 4.3m photos on Instagram tagged with fruit, veg, fruit salad, smoothie, etc., so visual communication is working and you [as an industry] can build on that.
“Instagram (a visual communication platform) is one domain where people share produce information more than any other. Here is where the discussion is taking place. The biggest sub groups are Pinterest and Tumblr, so other social media platforms are hosting your target audience too.
Fritz went through further mainstream social media channels, such as Twitter; downloading several thousand tweets that mentioned fruit and vegetables before putting them through Wordle to create a word cloud to discover the main buzz words.
“The keywords were veggies, healthy, juice, delicious, gardening, smoothies, recipes, market (as in local farmers’ market), whole, frozen, aeroponics (a vertical kitchen garden that’s already a trend),” he revealed.
In summary, Fritz advised five key steps to help develop a successful social media strategy for your brand:
Open an Instagram account.
Increase posting frequency on Facebook and Twitter.
Establish a frequent monitoring, analytics, and reporting process.
Establish an editorial calendar.
Set up an ideation and brainstorming session within your company and beyond, and try to establish your top five communication products online.
Other social media analytical tools recommended by Fritz include: