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Seven effective marketing tools to improve fresh fruit and vegetable sales

Fresh fruit and vegetable growers are confronted currently with a situation of low prices and increasing costs. Margins become smaller, to the point that they make production unattractive as a business. Some even consider shifting to an alternative business.

To correct this situation there are basically two alternatives:

a) increase sales, through alternative channels or products
b) make my production more efficient, that is, produce more with less

Several marketing and produce quality tools allow producers to maintain a competitive advantage. Here we list seven easy and effective marketing techniques that can have an impact in improving the financial results of the fresh produce business in the short term.

1) Show your clients how they can benefit from increased sales through point-of-sale retail tests
Real point-of-sale market tests will demonstrate how certain attractive and innovative products will increase sales per sqm. and profitability. A price-demand curve can also be tested to optimize revenue

2) Provide additional information together with the product
For certain generic crops, it is hard to differentiate based on product only. This is more often the case with vegetables. Providing additional information with the product to the retail customer and end-consumer allows for a certain differentiation and can weigh in the purchase decision.

3) Establish a good harvest forecasting system
A reliable harvest forecasting system allows the scheduling of sales and special offers with retail clients. This forecasting system allows the integration of the client in the harvest planning, smoothing out production peaks and avoiding excess inventories and old fruit in storage. Efficient forecasting systems collect field information periodically regarding fruit evolution and available volumes. These models are corrected daily, inputting field temperature and other data.

4) Work together with clients to program sales during the whole season
Linked to the point above, a good forecasting system allows for sales planning and accurate delivery of agreed upon volumes and quality, making happy clients.

5) Deliver the fruit at the optimum ripeness at the retail store, always
Optimum maturity at harvests maximizes field productivity (kilograms per hectare) as well as fruit quality. Ripe fruit has more sugars, better color and more juiciness. Leading producers can deliver fruit at the optimum ripeness through adequate harvest, packing, cooling and handling systems.

6) Program production according to varieties and geographical areas
Each variety has a seasonal production peak, depending on their genetic characteristics and day.degree requirements.
Additionally, playing with farm locations at different altitude and latitude allows the advancement or delay of these production peaks. A well planned production plays with varieties and farm geography and smooths out production curves. This allows a stable flow of produce into packingstations and the markets, avoiding production peaks and depressed prices.

7) Invest in applied R&D and utilize R&D as a differentiation and marketing tool
Applied R&D is the definitive source of competitive advantage for fresh produce businesses. The horticultural sector lags behind the implementation of some technologies developed up to 20 years ago. Small investments in R&D applied to specific problems can give a competitive advantage to a particular fresh produce business. Examples can be found in field applications, harvest techniques, packingstation equipment, packaging, storage and ripening facilities, etc...

These seven techniques do not require a huge investment and are within the existing production processes and are easy to implement. They can be adopted in a short time period. The aplication of several of these measures has a cumulative effect in fruit quality and customer satisfaction, and therefore increased sales and profits.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Manuel Madrid



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