There are two sides to creating a profitable market for potato growers: the supply side and the demand side. Supply has been kept in check through the hard work of many in the industry, but there’s more that we can do on the demand side.
There was a time when produce was shipped away from the fields, never to be seen or heard from again by the grower. That happens less frequently today, in part because growers have become shippers and marketers and also because consumers want to know where their food comes from.
The connection to food is the motivation behind retailers marketing growers alongside the produce. Wal-Mart has found success featuring local growers in television ads and in-store signage, Whole Foods Market has been telling shoppers who grew the produce long before country of origin labeling went into effect, and the Midwestern retailer Meijer emphasizes locally-sourced products in the store and on billboards.
Why is using the farmer to promote the product successful? Maybe for the same reason many people would rather pay a little bit more to buy an item from a brick-and-mortar store than order it online. Or call up a customer rather than send an e-mail. The personal connection builds immediate rapport and trust, which is exactly what produce growers want from customers trust in their product and a connection so they come back.
Packaging, branding and a company Web site are a good start. But take a retailer up on an offer to feature you and your family in the produce department. Potato growers are a humble group and tend to stay away from the spotlight, but that’s the connection to food that shoppers want. They don’t want to see a businessman in a suit and tie, they want to see a dirt-covered farmer stepping off a tractor or working the sorting line. The message that image sends to consumers goes beyond your potato sales it also speaks to the potato industry as a whole and reinforces the benefits of buying products that are grown either locally or in the United States.