Fresh Produce Journal

Article featured in FPJ – 12th March, 2021

In this first of a series of regular articles for FPJ, Julie Cleijne provides insight into the huge opportunity that exists for Fresh Produce businesses to align their product messaging with consumer preferences around health & the environment, using less traditional and more innovative marketing mediums and awareness campaigns. 

Julie is a Nutrition trained Chef, and founder of Sustainable Kitchen Consultants.  Her experience and skills provide the intersection of nutritious, sustainable food, consumer insight and business success.  She works directly with farmers, foodservice, brands & independent retail to connect them to consumer needs, helping them be more sustainable and profitable.  She is the current British Leeks Ambassador.

This regular feature on Connecting Fresh Produce with Health & Wellness will include insight into how businesses can appeal to both Foodservice & Consumer audiences, featuring recipes, live cooking & short interviews. It’s designed to help your business remain relevant in this changing food landscape.

A food revolution is happening as consumers recognise the link between their food choices, their personal health, and the health of the planet. 

Here’s how to stay relevant and in this pivotal time of change.

Never before has this strong link between food and human health created such huge opportunities for Fresh Produce businesses. 

Historically there have been broadly two consumer groups – those who’s buying choices have been influenced by food stories, environment, ethics and health over price and taste, and those who are more likely to prioritise affordability or flavour. 

But now, more than ever, both of those broad consumer groups are motivated to live healthier lives. They see how they have the power to influence their health through their food and drink choices, where they have individual personal control – it feels achievable, and the results in terms of physical health can be directly seen.

This provides exciting opportunities for Fresh Produce businesses to help consumers understand the short and long-term power of their eating habits on their health, and also the impact on the health of the planet.

But how do businesses speak about healthy food to consumers who have not previously had a culture of equating food to health? How can businesses facilitate these conversations?  And what are the benefits?

My work as British Leeks Ambassador provided an opportunity to promote Leeks from a health & sustainability perspective.  Demonstrating that the entire plant is edible, and highlight the great naturally occurring pre-biotic and gut health benefits for consumers, and for the NPD sector. For Chefs, promoting their versatility and availability for 9 months of the year. 

Like the Leek ‘wantons’ I created using the often discarded dark green leek leaves – every business has an opportunity to approach their brand from a different perspective – to challenge traditional thinking, and create exciting points of difference, and highlighting the health & wellness benefits of their products to appeal to customers.

The more businesses are able to understand and showcase their uniqueness, the better they can build strong relationships with their customers, both consumer and wholesale, leading to the ability to protect margins; provide negotiation bargaining power; raise their brand profile; and increase profits.

Traditional marketing incorporating annual exhibits or trade shows has already been disrupted through social distancing requirements, which is expected to continue for some time.  A positive outcome from this is that marketing budgets can be diverted to innovative, health centric approaches, including via digital channels.

With consumers engaging in more scratch cooking, businesses can to tell their brand story in health centric ways that consumers can relate to, and implement easily into their lives. 

Chefs will need to cater well to these health conscious consumers in the out-of-home sector, which provides opportunity for businesses to build closer connections with them, so that they better understand their brand health credentials, and become strong advocates and promoters of their products.

There are examples of farming groups joining forces with brands to create innovative health inspired consumer products, often from surplus produce, transforming their brand image and creating new revenue streams.

Seed companies are increasingly seeing the opportunities to not only innovate to promote healthier soil, and yields, but also healthier produce.

And let’s not forget your staff as customers! The more they understand your product’s health potential the more they can be your biggest brand assets and advocates.

We predict this opportunity to engage with customers on health issues is so fundamental, that it has the power to transform Agri-food and fresh produce businesses from not just suppliers of produce, but to elevate them to businesses that support our health & wellness.

Leading to the ultimate vision of not only Healthy people & Healthy planet, but Food production that’s good for the health of people, planet AND business.

See full article in the Fresh Produce Journal here:

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