Today, customers have endless ways and places to buy produce. Those of us working within a wholesale produce market are not immune to this reality. Competition is not just the stall next door; it’s well beyond our market walls.
If you believe you are peddling average fare, and you have no desire to distinguish yourself from the competition, then price rules the day. If, on the other hand, you believe you have something special to offer, you have to make people aware of this. And that’s where marketing comes in. The 21 wholesaler tenants that make up the Toronto Wholesale Produce Association at the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto have invested in marketing to tell their stories and promote their goods. In addition to going out to students of foodservice — our future customers — the thrust of our effort is not directed at trade, but at our customers’ customers.
Like many wholesale produce markets around the world, we sit on a sizable stretch of land just a few miles from the city core. Despite the Toronto market’s proximity and visibility, the public doesn’t know what we do and why it matters to them. They don’t realize that our wholesale market serves the many independent restaurants and bodegas they love and that we are the source of the “small, special and local” offerings they need and want, or that we help contribute to the vibrant food scene throughout their communities.
And this is why we are reaching out to consumers where they can be found through the association’s newly created Freshstalks.
We’re online. This year we created the “Freshstalks” brand to carry our social media and marketing message. We’re participating in the lively dialogue around food on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook while also blogging regularly on freshstalks.com. The content sheds light on what we are about and includes special insights of what we believe would intrigue food aficionados.
We’re on the road. In addition to our virtual connections, starting this fall, we will be hitting the road to meet face-to-face with people. Since we’re in the delivery business, what better way to do so than in a classic “Piaggio Ape.” Redesigned as a produce stand on three wheels, it will appear at local neighborhood festivals, consumer events and our customers’ businesses to “show and tell” consumers how our market is relevant to their day-to-day.
Despite the Toronto market’s proximity and visibility, the public doesn’t know what we do and why it matters to them.
Marketing benefits. Our ultimate goal is to ensure our market remains the go-to source for our existing customers and becomes the place to shop for future customers. The ROI may be calculated, eventually, in increased pallets out the door, but what we are really aiming for is to raise our public profile to safeguard our future. By doing so, we are drawing attention to our customers and the benefits to consumers that our connection makes possible.
A positive image. Our tag line is “We Grow the City” because we see ourselves as important players in city building. Our market serves the businesses that contribute to the economy and the cultural fabric of the communities they operate in. It’s no coincidence that the best cities in the world have the most vibrant food scenes, and they also have a wholesale produce market within close proximity. A dynamic food culture is indeed essential to the general prosperity of a city.
Leadership status. Through our strategy we’re not only sharing beautiful pictures of produce, we’re providing news related to our world. Being a source of new, interesting and relevant information elevates our reputation and presents us as an authority. Social media is a way for us to not only directly communicate with consumers, but also remind our customers that we’re the place to shop.
Your own megaphone. Today, anyone can say anything about your product or company and share it with the world. If you don’t tell others what you are about, someone else might do it for you and you may not like what you hear. Social media allows you to project and control your image while building relationships with your target audiences. It also makes it easier to respond to comments — positive or negative.
Good for our industry. If the point of what we do is to offer that special something, everyone from farmer to end consumer benefits from a strong wholesale produce market. It means wholesale produce markets are not made up of disposable commodities and unnecessary middlemen, but vital suppliers offering expertise and unique fresh produce to our customers, that no one else can.