Fresh Produce Journal

Article featured in FPJ – June, 2021

In this third 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 currently the Operations Manager at The Fold, an organic farm and café and pioneering centre for healthy & sustainable living.

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.

Hospitality collaborations and embracing all things digital are key to connecting your fresh produce with a highly engaged consumer, especially those with interests in health & sustainability

As Foodservice businesses are set to open up to customers both outside and inside their premises from 17th May, fresh produce businesses can once again count hospitality businesses as their regular customers.  But what of the opportunity to leverage hospitality as strong advocates to promote your produce to consumers?  Businesses who are able to leverage the hospitality sector through collaborations, using key influencer brands and individuals as advocates of their produce, and maximising this messaging via online channels, will stand out and be able to reach and excite a highly digitally connected consumer who is interested in understanding how their food gets to them from field to fork.

Lockdown reconnected consumers to food.  Not only with more people seeking comfort and creative outlet through meal times, but also with experimenting with healthier cooking, and sharing their creations on everything from Instagram to TikTok and Zoom.  Pre-pandemic, social media feeds were filled with photos of dinners out, but with restaurants closed we saw people sharing photos of home cooking successes, inspired by online classes and videos.

Restaurants unable to engage with their customers directly found new ways to communicate and connect at an emotional level via digital channels.  We saw chef online cooking classes, live cook-alongs, virtual tours, online tastings, make-at-home recipe videos, live Q&A and more, and the world rediscovered its love of cooking. 

We also saw suppliers, farmers and growers connecting directly with consumers in the virtual space, and as digital became our only way to share and interact, consumers honed a higher propensity to engage online.

A huge opportunity exists to leverage both the newfound connection consumers have with their food and drink through connecting food producers via Chefs and hospitality brands, to continue to connect with consumers at a deeper level to help them better understand the process of getting food from farm to fork.

More than just eating, consumers have long been keen to connect with their food, understanding the farm to fork process involved in making it. As lockdown unwinds, we are sure to still see uncertainty around things such as public health and the economy, and businesses can influence with stories of safety, security and comfort through food, by telling the story of where and how it is produced, the health benefits of it and sustainability credentials.

Through combining education with entertainment, leveraging the hospitality sector as influencers, businesses have a great avenue to connect with loyal fans and customers whether at home, or as they venture out into dining out again. Restaurants are a key place of connection and community that is fundamental to our society.  Consumers crave connection and will want it even more during these times.

But collaborations can go further than just online cooking videos.  Collaborations could include co-branded signature recipes, with seasonal stars, take-away meal kits or special sauces created with leading restaurant groups.  The more engaged the hospitality sector is with your produce, and the story of how it is produced, the more they can influence their customers, whether they’re dining out or eating at home.

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