34th Annual Marketing Excellence Awards
It was full speed ahead for produce marketers in 2022, and the PRODUCE BUSINESS 34th Annual Marketing Excellence Awards program reflected a renewed sense of energy and purpose in the produce industry.
With the pandemic steadily receding in the rearview mirror, it was time for produce marketers to take their level of creativity, innovation and technology onto new pathways in their always evolving efforts to successfully reach consumers, create brand awareness and increase sales.
While inflation and the economy are looming concerns, marketers in the produce industry shrugged off those factors and let loose a little bit with their latest marketing efforts, creating unique brand storytelling moments while having some fun in the process.
This PRODUCE BUSINESS 34th Annual Marketing Excellence Awards program could have been called “Full Speed Ahead” as marketers put the pedal to the metal and showcased their brands’ unique strengths, value propositions and marketing messages to reach consumers and retailers through the clever use of packaging, retail displays, social media, influencer partnerships, videos and much more.
Special thanks go to all of the entrants for taking the time to submit and share the required material and results for judging. The record number of imaginative and compelling entrants made the judges’ task especially challenging, and we encourage those companies that did not win to keep up the great marketing efforts and apply next year.
In celebration— and for inspiration and learning— presented on the following pages are the top 19 campaigns awarded with Marketing Excellence.
Avocados from Mexico
“It’s Always Good in the Guac Zone” with Football Legend Drew Brees
The Big Game is the No. 1 occasion for avocado and guacamole consumption, and basket rings are twice as high in the 10 days before the game. Avocados From Mexico helped its retail partners deliver the goods to their shoppers with its Super Bowl LVI campaign via delicious avocados, the legendary Drew Brees, and a $100,000 sweepstakes — a historic combo that boosted basket sizes and consumer engagement.
AFM traffic drivers included in-store displays featuring Drew Brees, and featured QR codes to help shoppers continue their journey online. The “House of Goodness” digital experience delivered recipes, consumer coupons, and even digital selfies with Drew Brees himself.
A record-breaking 106,000 displays were sold (+51% vs. YAG) and the sweepstakes received more than 431,000 entries. AFM circulated 4.8MM national consumer savings offers (IRCs & rebates) and 5.8MM retailer specific coupons across Walmart, Kroger, ABSCO, HEB, Ahold, Publix and Sprouts. Additionally, the promotion drove more than 1 million visits to the AFM website.
Bard Valley Natural Delights
“Mini Medjool Re-Launch”
Natural Delights re-launched its former date rolls under the new name, Mini Medjools, with new labels, new smaller, more snackable size and a new flavors. The goal was to promote these new items to consumers and retailers alike.
The prior date roll business was down double digits vs. prior year, so the company conducted consumer research to understand why. The No. 1 complaint was that the size was too large for a snack — and Mini Medjools were born. Natural Delights also launched new flavors with more natural ingredients to create a product with a more well-rounded nutrition profile.
The launch was promoted with social media advertising, influencer partnerships, trade media advertising, Google advertising, PR and Chatterbox sampling program.
- During the promotional time frame, there was a sales lift of 4.1%, which has continued to grow to 10.7% over the past 26 weeks.
- Natural Delights earned 224 consumer media placements earning 172 million impressions.
- The product was featured on Taste Radio as its favorite new snack item.
“World Champion Taste”
Bland Farms worked with Will Smith, pitcher from the World Series Champion Atlanta Braves, on a World Champion Taste promotion. Smith is a Georgia native, so he knows Bland Farms Vidalia sweet onions, and the start of baseball season tied in perfectly with the start of Vidalia season. In-store promotional material included new point-of-sale merchandise displays, baseball-themed POS cards and posters, and retailers could amplify the promotion and their store via an integrated social media campaign where consumers could enter contests with a chance to win autographed Will Smith baseballs, tickets to baseball games and more. There were also unique cross-promotional sales opportunities with Vidalia brands.
A retailer display contest was also conducted, with produce managers encouraged to submit images of their creative “World Champion Taste” in-store display featuring Bland Farm Vidalia Onions for a chance to win prizes.
- Media attention: Coverage from B2B outlets like PRODUCE BUSINESS, Produce News, The Packer, ANUK.
- Social media traffic increase — gained followers through contests run on social media.
- Retailer display contest participation — participation from multiple retailers in display contests, increasing sales.
California Avocado Commission
“California Avocado Road Trip Videos”
California road trips always have been popular. The California Avocado Commission partnered with chef Oliver English to take California avocados on the road to film recipes consumers can cook while traveling. In each video, the chef demonstrated the easy-to-prepare recipe.
The videos ran on Channel Factory, The Food Network, POPSUGAR, Spotify and The Kitchn. Videos also ran on Hulu on National Avocado Day. CAC also reached the target audience on its TikTok channel, which launched in April 2022. The commission worked with popular TikTok influencer Kelz (5.8 million followers) to “duet” and react to the “Redwoods” video.
- This series yielded 954,000 video views, 17,100 engagements (likes, comments, shares) and 3.9 million impressions on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
- On YouTube, these videos yielded an additional 2,100 organic views.
- The Redwoods Video, posted on the new California avocado TikTok channel, yielded 1,000 organic views and 375 engagements. When posted on TikTok influencer Kelz’s channel, this video generated 100,600 views, 12,530 engagements and yielded more than 5 million potential impressions.
- The three videos yielded more than 15M impressions and 14M views since July 2021.
- The videos also have yielded 144,000 impressions and 143,000 views on The Kitchn since March 2022.
Cosmic Crisp Apples
“Cosmic Crisp, The Apple of Big Holiday Dreams”
To support the launch of a larger 2021 crop of Cosmic Crisp apples, Proprietary Variety Management, (the brand’s marketing team) launched an integrated holiday promotion.
The promotion kicked off with two print advertisements in the Martha Stewart magazine and Better Homes & Gardens magazine. An advertisement ran in Thrive magazine’s holiday issue as well. A promotional landing page on the brand’s website hosted several unique recipes and decor ideas. How-to videos shot by lifestyle experts hosted on the page and the brand’s YouTube channel were also created.
A retail event at the largest grocery store in North America (located in Boise, ID) brought the Apple of Big Holiday Dreams campaign to life. An additional flagship store participated. During the event, Cosmic Crisp apples dominated the produce departments. Consumers couldn’t miss the storewide takeover, thanks to signs, branded toppers and price signs, case window clings, floor graphics and giant graphics on the front store windows.
The promotion garnered millions of consumer impressions, thousands of visitors to the Cosmic Crisp website and social media channels, and hundreds of scans to QR codes on various POS materials and print advertisements. The brand’s content had incredibly high engagement rates across all digital platforms. The store event saw a noticeable lift in produce and department sales.
“Salsabrate The Good: A National Fresh Cravings Giveback Campaign”
After an arduous year in 2021, the brand did not feel right spending dollars on brand promotions and, alongside so many other Americans, Fresh Cravings was hungry for some good, positive news. As such, the brand chose to shine the spotlight on those who champion others.
Fresh Cravings developed a giveback campaign called “Salsabrate The Good.” Throughout the campaign, the small, family-owned company committed $250,000 — giving $5,000 to 50 nonprofit organizations.
Now that the campaign has closed, the program will continue through the company’s philanthropy efforts, partnering with St. Vincent De Paul and local community members.
Fresh Cravings highlighted unsung and noble causes to millions of viewers on its national social media platforms. Additionally, on the ground, Fresh Cravings made a $5,000 donation to Helping Hands for the Navajo Nation that equated to 20,000 boxes of food to serve about 75,000 people (via Midwest Food Bank of Arizona), purchased 25 new guitars for veterans, procured a van to shuttle underserved children to after-school programs, funded 1,000 blessing bags for Chicago’s homeless, among dozens of other ripple effects.
The social aspect of this campaign featured a partnership with Upworthy and exceeded 6.2M impressions, reached 4.9M users and earned 27.3K likes.
Fresh Express LLC
“2022 May National Salad Month Campaign”
Fresh Express chefs created and shared a different salad recipe every day during National Salad Month. Consumers were asked to join the “saladbration” by making their own salad, sharing pictures online and entering to win prizes. Fresh Express awarded 129 winners with a month’s worth of salad coupons, three grand prize winners received $1,000 worth of salad coupons and six runners-up won $100 worth of salad coupons. All winners also received an insulated tote bag and a salad-to-go bowl.
Other tactics included a Guide to Greens page created on freshexpress.com to help consumers build better salads; and the company also partnered with 50 influencers.
- In May, Fresh Express Value Added Salads grew 1.2% in dollars and .7% in units compared to the previous month in Multi-Outlet retail.
- Fresh Express millennial and Generation X buyers collectively increased by 70K households vs. the previous month.
- More than 4,000 entries.
- 16% YOY increase in monthly website traffic and increased pages viewed and time spent on freshexpress.com.
- Added 500+ newsletter sign-ups.
- 50 influencers posted 91 pieces of content, garnering 160K views and a 3% engagement rate.
In Spring 2022, Gotham Greens launched a partnership with the iconic and beloved band, the Grateful Dead, on a limited-edition packaging and marketing campaign that celebrates a shared commitment to sustainability, community and plant-based eating. The marketing collaboration reimagines Gotham Greens’ best-selling Gourmet Medley lettuce as Grateful Greens, with custom packaging featuring the band’s iconic Dancing Bears and a QR code that unlocks curated content, including a custom Grateful Dead playlist to make cooking in the kitchen more joyful.
A shared commitment to sustainability is at the heart of this collaboration. For every package of Grateful Greens sold, Gotham Greens and the Grateful Dead will plant trees in partnership with Forest Nation, dedicated to preserving the future of our planet.
In California, the company debuted this collaboration in its new lidded film packaging, which reduces overall plastic by over 30%. On the heels of a recent B Corp Certification, this tree planting initiative is one of the many ways the company continues to keep sustainability at the core of what they do.
Gotham Greens brought the iconic dancing bears to its packaging with a design that is a mix of both brands and used existing design conventions on packaging, such as the window system and color panel on the right, to fuse the collaboration. The company also created custom digital content, including a landing page, greenhouse art takeover, a curated cooking playlist, and giveaway. Photography and design supported the overall look and feel, bringing together bright, retro-inspired color with a modern, clean look.
Hass Avocado Board
“Walk with a Doc” with “Fresh Avocados – Love One Today”
As consumers continued to socially distance in 2022, the Hass Avocado Board (HAB), pivoted and expanded its strategic partnership with the nonprofit Walk with a Doc (WWAD) to roll out fun, safe and easy ways for consumers to take more control of their heart health.
The Aloha Adventure Walk Challenge was a unique, two-week walk event spotlighting the role nutrition could play in a healthy lifestyle. Hosted by health professionals and sponsored by Fresh Avocados – Love One Today, the promotion was originally scoped to be in-person, but like the pilot 2021 walk event, had to strategically adjust to be virtual. HAB and WWAD worked as a team to convert activities to digital platforms and put messaging that empowered healthy living at the center of everything.
A highlight of the virtual event was an engaging curated physician panel sharing how nutrition fit in their practice of encouraging patients to take better care of their heart.
All told, the 2022 event generated more than 208MM impressions from earned media placements and an additional 185,000 impressions across social media, and over 1,300 walkers logged over 43,000 miles. With nearly 74,000 engagements in just two weeks on the digital platform, the 2022 event set a new record for WWAD races. It generated 4% growth over the pilot event.
In summer of 2021, Monterey Mushrooms set out to create new content for customers and consumers, and optimize existing content on its website. Monterey Mushrooms saw mushrooms gaining in popularity at the beginning of the pandemic and wanted to leverage that popularity with the resources they already had.
The company engaged with consumers, and potential foodservice and retail trade customers via Hubspot, as well as educated shoppers in a manner that prompted fresh mushroom purchase. The Monterey Mushrooms’ social presence was refreshed in Q1. This included new profile and header images, story highlights, hashtag strategy and content strategy.
From May 2021 to May 2022, there was a 263.1% increase in organic traffic to the website.
Audience growth and engagement have seen steady increases month over month. Total audience size on all social platforms increased 13.31% YoY, while interactions increased +44.09% YoY. In June 2020, the company’s social audience size was a total of 8,755, and now stands at a total of 11,607 followers, a +32.58% increase.
SEO trends have led to steady growth in blog views from organic search; 1,888 new qualified leads, including 864 from organic search; 142 subscribers to the newsletter; +29.73% increase in overall sessions; and a 40.23% increase from organic search.
“Food Network Blended Burger Contest”
The Mushroom Council (MC) wanted to build demand for a new use of mushrooms known as The Blend. In 2021, the council entered into a partnership with the Food Network for a blended burger recipe contest.
The Mushroom Council and Food Network generated awareness for their co-produced contest through a variety of strategic activations, including a Blended Burger Microsite on FoodNetwork.com. A celebrity hosted recipe video offered inspiration for both home cooks and professional chefs to develop blended burgers and enter the contest.
The Blend and the blended burger contest were promoted in the Food Network Magazine, and an eight-page recipe booklet developed by the editors showed how The Blend fits a variety of cuisines.
Celebrity chef Kardea Brown, host of the Food Network show “Delicious Miss Brown,” served as spokesperson for the contest.
The Council also created its first-ever broadcast television commercial that aired during Food Network programs.
- 94.9M+ campaign impressions (105% of goal).
- 69M+ people reached with print content.
- 13.9M+ impressions from Food Network social and digital content, and 23K+ link clicks from integrated social content to FoodNetwork.com.
- 12M broadcast ad impressions.
- 1.3K+ blended burger contest entries, far exceeding the goal of 500 entries.
- 1MM+ views of Kardea Brown’s blended burger video.
New York Apple Association
The New York Apple Association elevated consumer awareness of New York apples and the NYAA brand through two new commercials and radio.
NYAA launched advertising through connected TV (CTV); created 20 new “how-to” recipe videos; and made high resolution images available to promotional partners. NYAA created a series of banner digital ads; a series of trade ads featuring different apple growers and shippers from New York State. An interactive digital guide promoted apple picking, cideries and cider, along with where to source a New York gift box of apples.
The campaign reached more than 10.3 million unique consumers through television and radio campaigns, and an additional 7,072,500 consumers by airing during the TCS NYC Marathon. The association also reached 1,383,474 consumers through new televisions’ advertising medium. It reached an additional 1,772,775 consumers by placing commercials and recipes videos on YouTube, and 1,192,657 consumers through sponsorships of podcasts.
NYAA coordinated TV appearances and social media posts featuring Kelly Springer, registered dietitian and association spokesperson. for the New York Apple Association. She also conducted a consumer-focused webinar on YouTube in addition to hosting a webinar for registered dietitians.
New York apple messages reached 30,166,60 consumers from June 2021 to mid-May 2022 on social media.
North Carolina SweetPotato Commission
“Healthy Family Project & NC SweetPotatoes Digital Partnership”
North Carolina SweetPotato Commission’s digital campaign with Healthy Family project spotlighted the importance of video content. Campaign elements included recipe creation, blog post, social media support, dedicated eNewsletter, Food Rx video and blog post, value-added video content including: TikTok video, Instagram reel and Facebook Live.
Food Rx is a dedicated video series that focuses on the important role food plays in overall health. The North Carolina SweetPotato Commission’s participation in this program helped it tell the story about the nutrition benefits and versatility of their item.
During just the few months that this content has been live, it generated more than 260,000 impressions. Campaign stats include:
- 6 pieces of digital content.
- 300K social media followers.
- 260K total impressions.
- 20K eNewsletter subscribers.
- $1,000 donation to Ripe Revival.
Ocean Mist Farms
“Arti’s Adventure Giveaway”
Ocean Mist Farms launched this year’s Castroville and Coachella artichoke production season with its winter artichoke promotion, Arti’s Adventure Giveaway. This multifaceted campaign took place during peak artichoke season, Jan. 23 to April 23, and included consumer email marketing, social media advertising, flash promotions on Instagram and sweepstakes prizes — all to drive purchase intent for green and purple artichokes and to grow its consumer database.
In the first half of the promotion, shopper education was focused on highlighting key nutrition information. Moving into the second half of the promotion, shopper education was focused on elevating Ocean Mist Farms’ superior artichoke varieties and artichoke grower expertise to align with the traditional spring artichoke eating season.
Ocean Mist Farms advertised the giveaway on social media and email marketing. Ocean Mist Farms also utilized Google Ads and influencer marketing.
The campaign exceeded its goal for social media impressions by 126% and also saw high open and click rates among promotion emails. This promotion received 313,476 sweepstake submissions, a 975% increase year over year. Three Google ads were placed throughout the promotion, and four influencer partnership posts were executed throughout the promotion, resulting in a total of 34 placements and 64,965,969 influencer impressions.
Pink Lady America
“Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2022”
Now in its 11th year, the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year is a global photography contest. The Pink Lady apple brand in the UK, owned by APAL, was a headline sponsor from the beginning of the contest, and in 2021, Pink Lady America also became a sponsor, and a new category honored a photographer from North America.
This year’s winners were announced by globally acclaimed chef and co-presenter of UK Masterchef: The Professionals, Monica Galetti, in a live-streamed awards ceremony.
The exhibition of the 2022 finalists will be premiering at The Royal Photographic Society, in England, from Nov. 20 through Dec. 12, 2022. Plans are to showcase images in the United States.
The contest received thousands of entries from over 60 countries and media coverage to date included CBS Saturday Morning, CNN, BuzzFeed and MSN. Globally, the results earned coverage from the BBC, including 10 BBC territories. The main BBC News’ IG post earned more than 171K likes, and the article has been shared more than 1.8K times on FB. It went viral in India with more than 30 pieces of coverage. It saw traction in food and lifestyle media too. In the UK, national media coverage included: Daily Mail, Times, The Times radio; Guardian; Daily Telegraph. The awards ceremony YouTube video has nearly 10,000 views and was watched by an audience across the globe.
“In Search of Paper”
Create a video for the Fresh Ideas Showcase at the 2021 Fresh Summit that highlights Progressive Produce’s 100% recyclable paper packaging for potatoes. While the company can’t prevent every plastic bag from ending up in the landfill, it challenged itself to make a small difference within the produce industry by expanding earth-friendly packaging options and offering more sustainable solutions to customers. In a short video, director of marketing Oscar Guzman detailed the company’s journey to reduce the amount of plastic it uses as a company and convert plastic packaging to paper.
The “In Search of Paper” video was named a Bronze Telly Award winner in the Branded Content: Sustainability category. The Telly Awards, the world’s largest honor for video and television content across all screens, received over 11,000 entries.
“Pure Flavor Live Deliciously eMagazine Program”
A key Pure Flavor marketing initiative has been to work with content creators and social media influencers to organically reach their audiences with fresh recipes and lifestyle content.
The digital strategy was a core component of the Live Deliciously eMagazine launch and ongoing communications plan. The strategy was to: Share user-generated content with consumers; elevate products with the target audience; deliver content in a manner that supports healthy living; reinforce family time, and the role fresh produce plays in a healthy lifestyle; be delivered through a wide variety of channels and content types; drive traffic to the company’s channels; create reach opportunities with influencers and potential partners; and leverage existing social media budgets.
Social media organic and paid posts, email newsletters, and email banners all linked to each digital edition on the website. The Live Deliciously pages delivered over 34,563 unique page views to the website.
Since December 2020, Pure Flavor Facebook audience has grown by 12.47%. The posts have had over 13,326,166 impressions, 574,768 engagements and 136,482 link clicks.
Since December 2020, the Pure Flavor Instagram audience has grown by 95.1%. Instagram posts have had over 4,176,245 impressions, 28,824 engagements and 2,152 profile actions.
“Super Snack Squad Multi-packs and Pro2 Max — Retailer Ads and Temporary Price Reductions”
Dippin’ Stix Super Snack Squad Multi-Packs (5 single trays per Multi-Pack) utilizes retailer ads and in-store promotions using Temporary Price Reductions (TPR) for multiple week campaigns during this yearly sales period. Major retailers now sell an average of seven multi-packs a week of just the top two flavors (four available). Sales noted are from June 2021 to 2022 and are up 20% across the country.
Pro2 Max (meal replacement trays) used retailer ads and in-store promotions using TPR’s for multiple week campaigns during this yearly sales period. Several major retail chains enjoy the consistent, repeat sales on these large produce snack trays, that now include a breakfast offering, with sales up over 52% on Reichel Foods’ top 3 Max trays, from June 2021 to June 2022.
All retailers that carried these new line additions enjoyed substantial increases in sales and category growth. During the promotional sale and ad periods, retailers offered reduced retails as low as multiples of 2 for $10 on the large Pro2 Max trays, with sales up 52% from June 2021 to June 2022.
The reduced sale price of $6.49 on the Dippin’ Stix Multi-packs has generated significant growth with virtually no shrink. Sales are up 20% from June 2021 to June 2022.
After seeing the growth of the red sweet onion category, along with increased consumer demand, Shuman Farms created a unique brand, RealSweet Rubies. Creating the RealSweet Rubies brand has allowed the company to tell the story of this extraordinary onion while driving incremental sales in the category.
Along with the new packaging, Shuman Farms also created a website, recipes, and in-store signage to promote the brand. After the encouraging response received in its inaugural year, Shuman Farms increased the acreage and shipped promotable volumes in May and June 2022.