Commodity boards assist growers, packers and shippers with product research, marketing campaigns and legislative oversight, which helps retailers build sales and brand loyalty.
By Elizabeth Louise Hatt
Retail display contests, cross-country cook-offs and marketing campaigns starring celebrities and chefs are just a few of the sales-building programs organized by commodity boards. Behind the scenes, they conduct a tremendous amount of research related to the produce, meat, seafood and other products they represent. They also set and enforce quality standards to help simplify grocers’ decisions about what to stock.
Growers, packers and shippers rely on commodity boards to give them a voice and below we highlight what some of them are saying.
Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
Representing an industry worth about $5.8 billion in terms of direct and indirect economic output, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) is responsible for marketing, setting quality standards and educating customers about Alaska seafood, according to officials at the commodity board. “One of our main objectives is brand management,” says Larry Andrews, retail marketing director for the Juneau, Alaska-based organization. “We aim to establish the Alaska Seafood brand as one of the best recognized and most valuable seafood brands in the world.”
The ASMI continues to reach new consumers through its online presence with its microsites: WildAlaskaFlavor.com, which includes recipes, seafood descriptions and information about the fishermen; AlaskaFishTaco.com, a site dedicated to The First Ever Wild Alaska Fish Taco Recipe Contest; and Cookitfrozen.com, which has just expanded to an iPhone application, and highlights methods of prepration of frozen Alaska Seafood products and recipes based on cooking technique or species. “You can watch a video about a cooking technique or search for recipes and then email yourself cooking instructions and create a shopping list,” says Andrews, adding that it should be available soon for the iPad and Droids.
The organization has also created educational opportunities for retailers. “On the ASMI site, you can go to AlaskaSeafoodU to learn about harvesting, sustainability, the different species and gear types,” says Andrews. “There are multiple choice questions to answer and you receive a certificate at the end. It’s there for wait and sales staff to show their customers that they are knowledgeable about the product they sell.”
For more information, visit www.alaskaseafood.org.
California Fig Advisory Board
Officials at the Fresno, Calif.-based California Fig Advisory Board (CFAB) are declaring 2011 the Year of the Fig. The new marketing campaign incorporates both traditional and online media outlets, including food bloggers and social media, retail integration and an entire summer of fig festivities to enhance the annual Fig Fest event.
“The Year of the Fig campaign centers around reaching culinary influencers with inspired uses for this ancient fruit that is making a modern-day resurgence,” says CEO Karla J. Stockli. To kick off the Year of the Fig, Stockli and celebrity chef Robert Del Grande filmed five California Fig episodes to air on the nationally syndicated PBS show Creative Living with Sheryl Borden. “The popularity in the foodservice sector has positioned figs as an on-trend fruit that complements both sweet and savory dishes,” Stockli says.
Established in 1953 to represent dried fig producers and processors, the CFAB is responsible for promoting the category to consumers and retailers through various means, including point-of-sale and point-of-purchase materials to educate shoppers on the different flavors of the varieties and offer recipes for consumers.
Hass Avocado Board
The Hass Avocado Board (HAB) represents nearly 20,000 producers and 100 importers, covering fresh domestic and imported Hass avocados sold in the U.S. The Irvine, Calif.-based board offers programs to increase awareness and consumption of Hass avocados, providing category management data to retailers along with point-of-sale materials to support seasonal promotions.
Recently, the HAB began a nutritional research program in conjunction with various universities and research centers to conduct clinical trials to determine the health benefits of Hass avocados, says Jose Luis Obregon, executive director. “Hass avocado consumption in the U.S. has grown at a rate of 10% per annum and the trend is expected to continue. This will force us to make our programs more effective.”
For more information, visit www.avocadocentral.com.
Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee
The Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee (IEOOC) recently instituted a quick response (QR) code program, where consumers can use their smartphones to scan a code in an ad or POS materials to access recipes and meal ideas. “We’ve gotten some real good response from this. The consumer can walk through the aisles, scan the code and get immediate access to ingredients,” says marketing director Sherise Jones. “The code we have running currently lets consumers download a PDF of a full-color cookbook with our recipes.”
The Parma, Idaho-based board was established in 1957 and now represents 36 shippers in Eastern Oregon and Southwestern Idaho with an array of efforts such as display contests, educational materials, trade shows and cross-promotions with retailers. “Last year we worked with The Balancing Act show on the Lifetime Network,” Jones says. “We did an educational spot on the varieties and best uses of Spanish sweet variety onions.”
The committee plans to continue responding to the dine-at-home trend encouraged by cooking TV shows, adds Jones. “We are trying to make sure the demand for onions stays high. They are very flavorful, reasonably priced way to enhance a menu item.”
For more information, visit www.bigonions.com.
Idaho Potato Commission
When a group of Idaho growers were looking to market their product to retailers and consumers on the East Coast, they established the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) in 1937. The IPC offers advertising, promotions, public relations, market access and development and government relations (locally, nationally and internationally) to the Idaho potato industry, including shippers, processors and approximately 600 farms, according to Frank Muir, president and CEO. A multi-faceted marketing arm for the industry with a national presence on TV and online, the IPC’s latest TV campaign focused on looking for the Idaho seal. “The ‘Grown in Idaho’ seal represents over $100 million worth of advertising that has been spent to build the Idaho potato brand,” Muir says. “That’s why, when asked where the best potatoes come from, 63% of consumers said Idaho.”
The Eagle, Idaho-based IPC recently teamed up with Boise State University, leveraging the success of the school’s football program with a video showcasing members of the team carrying 100-pound bags of Idaho potatoes up and down the stadium steps during their workouts. The campaign also included TV ads during the games, radio ads and interviews and on-field signage. “Idaho has been known for two things in recent years—Idaho potatoes and the blue turf,” he says. “With this we are leveraging two of Idaho’s most famous icons.”
For more information, visit www.idahopotato.com.
National Mango Board
In an effort to promote mangos in six underperforming markets across the country, officials from the Orlando, Fla.-based National Mango Board (NMB) are hitting the road with the Mango Hometown Tour program. At these events, two chefs will create a signature mango dish highlighting the regional cuisine and then compete in a taste-off for consumers to attend, according to officials.
There will also be appearances and interviews with local media and a mango lunch for influential moms. “We are working with a retailer in each market to extend the program before and after the events with in-store promotions and shopper education,” says Wendy McManus, director of marketing.
According to board officials, consumer demand for mangos is growing and year-round distribution is nearly 100% in retail stores. “A convergence of trends is favoring mangos right now, including an emphasis on ethnic cuisine, growing Hispanic populations and a focus on healthier eating to reduce childhood and adult obesity,” says McManus.
For more information, visit www.mango.org.
National Pork Board
Officials at the National Pork Board are rolling out a rebranding campaign, complete with a new logo and look, national television presence, redesigned website and a social media presence. An integral part of the campaign is a program designed to connect pork producers with retailers in an effort to share knowledge and information about the various products and production processes.
“We’re really excited about it,” says Jarrod Sutton, assistant vice president, channel marketing, for the Des Moines, Iowa-based board. “We’ve even given the producers some Retail 101 so that they will understand the business a little bit when they go in and talk to retailers.”
The updated retail website, www.porkretail.org, will create a more effective, intuitive resource, according to officials. It will include information on featured seasonal pork cuts, links to new content, a section about the brand launch, e-newsletter sign-up box and reading materials to help retailers gain a competitive edge. To assist in merchandising, retailers will have access to recipes, photos and logos, promotional calendars, consumer handouts and videos, nutrition guide, information about on-pack labeling and training materials.
More details and information about the services associated with the new branding will be available this spring.
For more information, visit www.porkretail.org.
National Watermelon Promotion Board
The National Watermelon Promotion Board’s (NWPB) most valuable contribution to the industry is its research into the health benefits of watermelon, according to officials for the board, which was created in 1989. Currently the NWPB is conducting research to understand the way watermelon affects hypertension. “Previous studies have allowed us to advertise that watermelon is good for your heart,” says Gordon Hunt, director of marketing and communications. “We are hoping now that we will be able to say, ‘watermelon can reverse the effects of hypertension.’”
The Orlando, Fla.-based NWPB produces informational materials based on its findings and works with retailers to create promotions that will attract consumers, officials note. “We spend far more time with the end users than the growers,” Hunt says.
One campaign he says that always gets attention is the Watermelon Queen. “Each of the eight state associations selects a watermelon queen every year who then competes for the national title at the convention in February,” says Hunt.
The industry has seen an increase in consumption in recent years. “Winter is the fastest growing part of the market right now,” Hunt says.
For more information, visit www.watermelon.org.
Northern Plains Potato Growers Association
Established in 1946 as the Red River Valley Potato Growers Association, the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association (NPPGA) remains dedicated to all aspects of the potato industry. “We represent not only the growers but also the researchers, the operators of the processing plants and the consumers,” says Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director.
The East Grand Forks, Minn.-based board is responsible for marketing, tracking relevant national and state legislation, communications and research. “We work closely with the National Potato Council on federal issues that we are concerned with such as the school lunch program and international trade,” says Kreis. “We also support two co-operatives—one for process growers and one for fresh growers.”
Representing about 250 growers, research is a key component of the board’s efforts. “We have a potato-breeding program at North Dakota State University that is constantly releasing new varieties, as well as working on improving the potato varieties we already have as far as resistance to disease and insects,” says Kreis.
For more information, visit www.nppga.org.
Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission
The state-managed Coos Bay, Ore.-based Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission (ODCC) focuses on enhancing the Dungeness crab’s identity and brand through marketing, education, promotion and research, says Nick Furman, executive director. “Oregon is the No. 1 producer of Dungeness crab,” he says. “We do a lot of work with local high-profile chefs to introduce our product to consumers at state and national events, as well as targeted promotions with restaurant and retail groups.”
Furman notes that the ODCC funds research through the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology and Oregon State University to make sure crab populations in the state stay healthy. “Dungeness crab stocks are cyclical along the West Coast,” he says. “This year we brought in 18 million pounds of crabs.”
The ODCC recently achieved Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. “There is a growing interest in selling certified sustainable seafood around the country and MSC is the gold standard for sustainability certification,” says Furman.
For more information, visit www.oregondungeness.org.
United States Potato Board
The United States Potato Board (USPB) was created in 1971 to address the nutritional image of potatoes and improve demand for potatoes and potato products, according to board officials. It now offers services for potato growers and producers, for commercial trade and to consumers directly. “All roads lead to increasing demand for all potato types—fresh, frozen, dehydrated and chips,” says Kathleen Triou, vice president of domestic marketing.
The Denver-based USPB works with retailers directly to keep them updated on industry findings and helps identify opportunity gaps, in addition to its Best in Class and Best Practice Partner programs that are geared towards developing long-term collaborative relationships with select retailers and their suppliers to analyze business needs and adopt USPB best practices.
According to Triou, the most valuable service offered by the USPB is research into how consumers perceive and use potatoes. The board plans to develop advertising to capitalize on its latest consumer research, as well as focusing on reaching out to frozen food manufacturers to spur greater use of potatoes in their products.
For more information, visit www.uspotatoes.com.
Vidalia Onion Committee
This year the Vidalia Onion Committee (VOC) is tying its brand to the “sweet sounds of country music,” says Wendy Brannen, executive director. Following last year’s promotional success, the board is teaming up with a major country music label to create a multi-faceted campaign that will run the gamut, including retailer display contests and consumer contests that have not yet been disclosed. “Let’s just say we are not doing your standard recipe contest,” says Brannen. “We are very excited and will definitely be using images of popular country music stars in our promotions.”
The Vidalia, Ga.-based VOC hopes the campaign will cultivate a younger generation of onion shoppers. “The baby boomer generation was making a lot of purchasing decisions when we had our first pop of national media; they have stuck with us and are very brand loyal,” says Brannen.
For more information, visit www.vidaliaonion.org.
Walla Walla Sweet Onion Marketing Committee
The Walla Walla Sweet Onion Marketing Committee (WWSOMC) was established in 1995 to protect sweet onion growers in the Walla Walla Valley of Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon. “We are relatively small compared to some with approximately 1,000 acres this year,” says Kathy Fry-Trommald, executive director for the Walla Walla, Wash.-based board. “But we’ve been growing Walla Walla sweet onions since the 1900s.”
The WWSOMC promotes its sweet onions with print advertising and at trade shows, such as the Produce Marketing Association and Northwest Food Service trade show, as well as the Walla Walla Sweet Onion annual festival that is currently in its 25th year. The WWSOMC committee will be distributing new recipe cards at this year’s shows. “I am going to have a whole new package of recipe cards to hand out at the Portland food service show that I am really excited about,” says Fry-Trommald. “Attendees really like getting new recipes.”
For more information, visit www.sweetonions.org.