I’m not talking about retailer-facing brands here, but consumer-facing produce and meat brands.
Of course the idea isn’t new; we are all familiar with Cuties Clementines, after all. But strong consumer-facing fresh food brands like Dole and Omaha Steaks are more the exception than the rule. While many challenges exist for building these kinds of brands, there may be greater need and opportunity to do so than there ever has been before.
Today more than ever, consumers are looking for brands and third-party certifications to give them assurance that the products they buy are high quality. And with the growth of values-based buying, consumers are looking for more information about the companies they buy from and the origins of their products. For consumers looking to fill their grocery order online, brands can play a role in communicating quality. Similarly, brands can help consumers who are increasingly willing to pay more for products that are brought to market responsibly and sustainably. However, for most customers today, the best bet is for them to look at (or squeeze) the product for themselves, to look for an organic certification or to get their fresh produce and meats from a farmers market or local store.
Whole Foods Market has recognized this need and has recently announced the launch of its Responsibly Grown program, which labels produce products in its store on a scale based on their demonstrated commitment to quality, human health and the environment.
The challenges of building these brands -- including limited direct consumer exposure and a commodity mindset that has told people for years that you cannot differentiate a commodity product -- are not insignificant. But those willing to take the risk, or for those capable of differentiating on the sorts of values that consumers are prioritizing, I’d argue that today the opportunity is ripe for branding fresh products.
Maybe I’ve oversimplified this. Maybe people are already taking action. Or maybe there is an opportunity for someone to get the first mover’s advantage. Regardless, I’d love to see consumers have more innovative ways to buy fresh.
Is the time ripe for new fresh food companies?