Grower-packer looks to bust out of the pack with branding

01/08/2013 05:33:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

Vicky BoydEditor's Note: This is the Field Notes column, written by editor Vicky Boyd and published in the January 2013 issue of Citrus + Vegetable Magazine.

A small but increasing number of grower-packers are trying to differentiate themselves in the eyes of produce buyers and consumers by developing brands and marketing programs.

But these grower-packers have their work cut out for them because typically, you don’t find multiple brands of the same item in the produce department. You’ll find one name on the strawberry clamshell and one on the bag of peeled baby carrots.

In some cases, such as broccoli crowns or Brussels sprouts, you may not even find a brand.

That differs from the cookie aisle, for example, where you’ll find Oreos, Hydrox and Publix’s private label chocolate cream sandwich cookies competing against one another.

Because produce is more of a commodity than processed or packaged foods, consumers aren’t necessarily accustomed to looking for or asking the produce manager for specific brands.

But Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Wish Farms in Plant City, wants to change that.

In 2011, Wishnatzki launched a new branding program, changing his operation’s name from Wishnatzki Farms, which was a mouthful even by his admission, to Wish Farms.

As part of that effort, the berry grower-packer launched a new logo and developed a multi-media marketing program.

“I think we’ve taken it to a whole new level with Wish Farms and Misty the pixie character,” Wishnatzki said, referring to the new mascot, Misty the Garden Pixie. “It stands out on the shelves.”

And that’s just the impact Wishnatzki is shooting for.

“It’s a brand that our customers are asking retailers for,” he told attendees of the recent Florida Ag Expo in Balm. “We’re trying to focus on retailers where the consumers appreciate some of the things we’re doing to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the pack.”

Consumers, for example, can find out the variety in the clamshell and exactly where their berries were grown by scanning a quick response code on the clamshell with their smartphone. The information is equally useful in a food safety recall.

As part of the rebranding, Wish Farms gave its website a facelift and added food bloggers, among other improvements.

Wish Farms also has more than 10,000 Facebook followers, who can interact with other strawberry lovers, trade recipes, learn which entertainers are at the Florida Strawberry Festival or ask when strawberry or blueberry harvest begins.

The social media site gives Wishnatzki and his colleagues an opportunity to interact with consumers, who like to become acquainted with the growers behind their food.

Wish Farms also has a Twitter feed and recently launched a Pinterest account, where users can post pictures and a 500-character description. The site’s design lends itself to trading recipes and fashion news.

Wishnatzki credits marketing director Amber Kosinsky and daughter Elizabeth Wishnatzki Peterson for much of the social media developments.

Carl Grooms, a Plant City strawberry producer who grows for Wishnatzki, said he initially questioned putting what he referred to as a fairy on the label.

But when Grooms was in a grocery store and saw consumer reactions to Misty, he changed his mind.

And that’s just the magic Wishnatzki wants to create.

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