Georgia On My Mind
Adding “Georgia” to the generic “peaches” word in retail displays has helped increase sales. When retailers make that change, sales significantly increase, says Will McGehee, marketing director for Georgia Peach Council, Macon, GA. It is difficult to say much in tiny price look-up stickers, but retailers do well in using other materials to promote a growing region’s product. “We plea with our retailers to get the message to produce managers to take that story of Georgia peaches to their customers,” McGehee says. “They can do that with hand-written chalk boards, pre-printed displays or something simple. We have lists dozens long of people who testify as soon as they put Georgia on display, sales spike. Everyone is trying to get the customer who buys one pound to buy two pounds. Here’s how we can get more fruit through the registers by using something so simple and easy as calling out Georgia, which has had great success.”
Peach production is increasing to accompany larger local and regional interest. “New acreage hasn’t slowed,” says McGehee. “We are enjoying an increase in acreage that was planted three to four years ago, when the local movement started gaining a lot of steam. It’s growing 10 to 15 percent every year.”
Calling attention to other Georgia produce also helps sales. “Many retailers will call out produce from Georgia using the Georgia Grown logo and signage,” says John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce Inc., in Reidsville, GA. “This gives consumers peace of mind knowing where their food is produced and is a built-in marketing tool at the retail level in both displays and ad call-outs.” Shuman Produce wants retailers to increase sales by merchandising Vidalia onions alongside complementary products that can attract shoppers’ attention.
Vidalia onions are unique because they can legally only be grown in a 20-county region in southeast Georgia. “Vidalia onions are one of the few produce items that have an affinity tied to a specific and small geographic region, you just can’t grow them anywhere,” says Shuman.
The GDA has constructed a community of producers, suppliers, retailers and consumers all interested in promoting local quality products, as well as providing resources for new agribusinesses, says Lauren Dees, marketing manager for Generation Farms, headquartered in Lake Park, GA. Generation Farms grows and ships Vidalia onions, green beans, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, blueberries, watermelon and organics.
Retailers have upped their game in local and regional promotions. “Marketing locally grown produce is essential not only for consumer awareness, but also for buyers who are often unaware of the availability and source from other regions when they could offer a higher quality product,” she says. “In the past five years, retailers have increased their marketing efforts for Georgia Grown products, and I believe we will only see this trend increase. Retailers who want to promote Georgia Grown need to know what products are available locally and source those items year-round when possible so that consumers rely on their store for Georgia Grown needs.”
Local helps market Georgia watermelons. “Georgia watermelons play well with local demand,” says Greg Leger, president and owner of Leger & Son Inc., which ships from Cordele, GA. “People, especially those in the Atlanta area, look for Georgia Grown. I can’t say they won’t pick up a watermelon from somewhere else and not buy it, but when that Georgia Grown marketing hits, they like to purchase them. We have people tell me they wait until they start seeing the local product.” One way Leger works to provide ideal eating experiences is by not rushing harvesting. The company waits until the fruit is at peak flavor and quality so shoppers return and purchase more.