Driscoll's CEO Talks Need for Better Communication About Fresh Produce

From October 19 to 21, the International Fresh Produce Association held the 2023 edition of its Global Produce & Floral Show in Anaheim, California. One of the largest annual trade shows for the floral and produce industries, the event attracted more than 20.000 attendees from more than 60 countries and across the supply chain. On October 19, Produce Report attended the IFPA opening luncheon for public relations professionals, which included an interesting session with Miles Reiter, current president and outgoing CEO of Driscoll's , on the importance of communications in the fresh produce industry.

Miles Reiter, grandson of Driscoll's co-founder and strawberry grower, has served as CEO of Driscoll's for 20 years. Under his leadership, Driscoll's became the largest berry company in the world, supplying one-third of the world's berry business. However, Reiter sees the job of the produce industry as much greater than simply generating sales and turning a profit and believes the industry needs to better communicate the benefits of fruits and vegetables. “Our job is to redistribute the plate of the American population.” This includes better messaging about the industry's smaller environmental footprint (100 pounds of water needed per pound of berries versus 2000 pounds of water per pound of beef), promoting the wide range and depth of flavor in the products, and, by Of course, the countless health benefits.

However, Reiter lamented that the industry “is just not as good at communicating the health benefits as we should be.” Reiter recalled graduating from college in 1971 and reading at the time that 18% of personal income went to food and about 9% to health care. Fifty years later, this figure has almost reversed, and chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease continue to rise, driving greater healthcare spending. “If we could reverse this trend, not only would it be better for society, but we could produce even better, higher-quality products, and offer even better jobs and higher wages.”

This philosophy goes hand in hand with the mission, values ​​and vision of Driscoll's, which, as Reiter stressed, focuses on creating an experience that accompanies the health message that comes with the consumption of fresh products. “Driscoll's seeks to create an experience that people want to share, that they want to repeat. It is joy, satisfaction, and drives repeat purchases... which creates better results for society. The job of each product we put on the market is to sell the next one.” Reiter went on to point out that authenticity is key and must be present inside a company before it can be projected outside. The message is also important, but a company's ability to offer an experience is even more important: getting consumers to try a product, repeat purchase, and remember the brand all requires a positive consumer experience.

In his closing speech, Reiter highlighted the differences between fruits and vegetables, and the need to adopt different marketing approaches for both. “The purpose of fruit is to seduce, to be sensual… so if we don't produce fruit that fits the purpose of the fruit, people shouldn't eat it, and they don't.” In contrast, vegetables have been poorly marketed in the United States, and the preparation methods common in previous decades (boiled, processed, canned, etc.) have led the American consumer to associate vegetables with blandness and a lack of creativity. . However, the same does not happen in other countries, and Reiter spoke of the need to learn from other cultures, such as China, about how to prepare and market vegetables. “I'm excited to take the plane to China because it means I can enjoy a phenomenal, vegetable-centered breakfast. I eat more vegetables for breakfast in China than I do all day in the United States. “There is a lot we can learn from other people and from life in this.”

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