by Jodean Robbins, PerishableNews.com
Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 9:07AM EST
Selling flavor and facts instead of fear was the topic of conversation at the New York Produce Show and Conference’s “Connect with Fresh” Consumer Media Lunch on December 2, 2015. More than 55 food journalists and consumer influencers came together to hear presentations aimed at increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Watsonville, CA-based Alliance for Food and Farming (a nonprofit organization comprised of agriculture associations, commodity groups and individual grower/shippers to deliver information to consumers about the safety of fruits and vegetables) kicked off the presentations by claiming that the use of fear in some organic food marketing scares shoppers away from consuming more fruits and vegetables. Her argument outlined how low availability and cost factors for organic items limit consumer choices in the organic category.
“Fear language in organic marketing drives consumers away from conventional produce, and not everyone can afford organic,” she said. “Fear-based marketing will never work to increase consumption. We must create new ways to market both organic and conventional produce with the end result of increasing consumer intake of fruits and vegetables.”
Dolan also discussed how scientific research refutes claims of the danger of conventional produce. “Scientific research conducted by the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, which incorporates 20-plus years of data, shows there is no credible risk associated with conventional produce,” she stated.
Amy Myrdal Miller, a registered dietitian and president of Carmichael, CA-based Farmer's Daughter Consulting, LLC, and Top Chef Master Suvir Saran followed Dolan with an interactive discussion on how to move consumers away from guilt and help them feel good about consuming all fruits and vegetables.
“Only 4 percent of Americans meet the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables,” said Miller. “Moving this number up 1 percent takes a lot of effort. We see a lack of knowledge and education in our culture about cooking. People are confused.”
Miller and Chef Saran promote reinforcing a positive message to consumers to assuage consumer confusion. “We need to promote flavor, not fear,” said Saran. “And, we need to promote all forms. Frozen or canned produce can be just as good as fresh in some applications.”
Saran pointed to his green bean stir fry as a great example. “The dish incorporates a variety of Indian spices as well as toasted coconut to boost flavor,” he explained. “In this dish, you can easily use frozen or canned French-cut beans. This allows budget-conscious consumers to still eat healthy and with great flavor. We must be both passionate and realistic at the same time — not everyone can afford fresh or organic.”
The duo emphasized the importance of stressing flavor and keeping it simple. “The beauty of Chef Saran’s cooking is how flavor inspires people to recreate the dish again and again,” said Miller. “Flavor is a crucial element in getting people to add produce to their diets.”
“Marketing language affects daily consumption,” added Saran. “We need to increasingly stress easy, healthy and delicious in helping consumers better understand how to eat.”