How the Ontario Food Terminal Showcases its Market

Paola Guarnieri

Paola Guarnieri, Ontario Food Terminal Board Member

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 ‬‭. ‬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.