Produce is where customers begin their journey to healthy living with simple easy to understand ingredients. It’s the gateway to growing sales in every category. Brands should celebrate their connection to the produce department to build trust and sales.

One of the things that makes natural, natural are the healthy, better for you products that personalize the value that they give to their consumers. It’s these products that are driving sales across every category. It’s these products that are the gateway to health and vitality and more importantly to center store sales success. This is the quickest path to grow sustainable sales in any category is to begin with produce.

Welcome. I appreciate you for listening. Today’s podcast episode is a special one. Today’s podcast episode, we’re going to talk a lot about produce and the important role that produce plays within the entire store. And here’s why this matters. When customers think about healthy products, the first place that they start is in the produce section. This is because produce has simple, easy to understand ingredients that customers can get their arms around. They can start experimenting with healthy products like organic, et cetera.

It’s the produce section that’s a gateway to the rest of the store. Now, one of the challenges that a lot of the retailers pay lip service to this and a lot of mainstream brands overlook this. So what do I mean by that? Customers that understand the benefit of the products that you’re putting out there, understand the value of the simple ingredients that are in your product. And if you can start there and understand, for example, what is vitamin C from an orange? How does that relate to your product specifically or any of the other products that are out there? These are the strategies that you need to leverage when you’re talking to the consumer that wants to buy your product. More importantly, this is where you need to educate the retailer on the value of the consumer that you drive into the stores. And again, this all begins in the produce section.

On today’s podcast episode, you’re going to get a Ph.D. in all things produce from Lori. She’s the host of the Produce Moms. It’s a podcast that I’ve been listening to for quite a while. You’re going to want to check it out. What she does is she helps educate consumers and retailers and brands about the value of produce and how to develop a solid business strategy to leverage the strength of produce in center store. 

Download the show notes below

Click here to learn more about The Produce Moms

BRAND SECRETS AND STRATEGIES

PODCAST #166

Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #166

Welcome to the Brand Secrets and Strategies podcast where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

I’m your host Dan Lohman. This weekly show is dedicated to getting your brand on the shelf and keeping it there.

Get ready to learn actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.

LETS ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES AND GET STARTED!

Dan: One of the things that makes natural, natural are the healthy, better for you products that personalize the value that they give to their consumers. It's these products that are driving sales across every category. It's these products that are the gateway to health and vitality and more importantly to center store sales success. This is the quickest path to grow sustainable sales in any category is to begin with produce. Welcome. I appreciate you for listening. Today's podcast episode is a special one. Today's podcast episode, we're going to talk a lot about produce and the important role that produce plays within the entire store. And here's why this matters. When customers think about healthy products, the first place that they start is in the produce section. This is because produce has simple, easy to understand ingredients that customers can get their arms around. They can start experimenting with healthy products like organic, et cetera.

It's the produce section that's a gateway to the rest of the store. Now, one of the challenges that a lot of the retailers pay lip service to this and a lot of mainstream brands overlook this. So what do I mean by that? Customers that understand the benefit of the products that you're putting out there, understand the value of the simple ingredients that are in your product. And if you can start there and understand, for example, what is vitamin C from an orange? How does that relate to your product specifically or any of the other products that are out there? These are the strategies that you need to leverage when you're talking to the consumer that wants to buy your product. More importantly, this is where you need to educate the retailer on the value of the consumer that you drive into the stores. And again, this all begins in the produce section.

On today's podcast episode, you're going to get a Ph.D. in all things produce from Lori. She's the host of the Produce Moms. It's a podcast that I've been listening to for quite a while. You're going to want to check it out. What she does is she helps educate consumers and retailers and brands about the value of produce and how to develop a solid business strategy to leverage the strength of produce in center store.

As always, I want to thank you for listening. This show is about you and it's for you. In appreciation for your time, there's a free downloadable guide for you at the end of every podcast episode. I always include one easy to down the quick to digest strategy that you can easily adopt and make your own. One that you can use to grow sustainable sales with and compete more effectively with.

And don't forget to go back and listen to previous podcasts episodes where I might solve your most pressing bottleneck, the thing that keeps you up at night. These strategies are validated by leading CEOs and thought leaders in our industry. Remember, the goal here is to get your product on more store shelves and into the hands of more shoppers. If you like the podcast, share with your friends, subscribe and leave a review. If you want more brand-building content, then make sure that you subscribe and hit the like bell so that you'll be the first to get new content as soon as it becomes available. Now here's Lori with the Produce Moms. Hi Lori. Thank you for coming on today. Can you please start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your journey to the Produce Mom?

Lori: Okay, thank you, Daniel. Yes. So my name is Lori Taylor and I'm the founder and CEO of the Produce Moms. This business was really built because of my passion for the fresh produce industry. I for 10 years sold fresh produce to over 300 grocery stores. I was working at the wholesale distribution stage of the supply chain. And really that was the foundation upon which this whole program has been built. After about seven years focused on sales, my career in the supply chain transition to where I was doing both sales and marketing. That was in late 2011. And really the blogging craze was just starting. And as I evaluated, as I was now being tasked with marketing the products that Indianapolis fruit company sold, I was realizing, oh my goodness, we are really like the universal love language.

We're selling fruits and vegetables, the most wholesome foods, like the foods that no doctor is omitting from your diet, the foods that no matter where you are in the world, everyone's enjoying these foods. It doesn't matter what type of culture you have or religion you have or diet you're following, by and large, fruits and vegetables are part of every single person's life. And that is one thing that really motivates me with my job. It's kind of like this common denominator or the common thread that unites all of humanity around the globe is fruits and vegetables. And so I'm very passionate and always saw the work that we were doing in a bigger light with a grander purpose than just simply moving fruits and veggies from point A to point B. But truthfully Daniel, I was, at the time, it was late 2011, early 2012, I'm evaluating what's out there to help educate both in consumers like myself as well as produce industry professionals like myself.

And what I found was there was very little in terms of, that consumer-facing marketing or that branded marketing that's going to turn you into more than a shopper, actually turn you into an ambassador or a disciple of these products. And when you consider what fruits and vegetables represent and the way that they are part of everyone's life, oftentimes it's the very first food item that we're speeding to our children and they're part of the way that we celebrate some of the most special moments in life. Like the romanticizing moments, the grieving moments, the celebratory moments, fruits and vegetables are there. So my goodness, our industry needed to do a better job elevating what we were doing in terms of content to connect with that, the way that fruits and vegetables are part of the heart and soul of others.

We were putting nothing out there that moves the heart and soul of our end consumer. Fast forward to today, certainly, there is better marketing, but it's important to really set the stage of what the industry was doing when I started the Produce Moms and why I was able to actually even get approval to start this, what started as a blog. Most of what was out there, you think about it, it was all very segmented. Our industry is very segmented. The growers are segmented. So like if you are Sunkist for instance, you're only going to talk about citrus fruits and that is a tough sell for the end consumer to opt into messaging 365 days a year. That's all about citrus. Same thing like flip the coin if you are Ocean Mist Farms, the world's largest artichoke grower. You're being tasked with talking about artichokes 365 days a year.

I love artichokes. One of my very favorite foods. I don't know if I'm necessarily interested in every single day receiving content marketing about artichokes. So that was when I really realized, oh my gosh, there's a void here. There is not one destination online delivering content in a way that I, as a 2012 consumer at the time, a young millennial mom, there was nothing in my Facebook feed. There was no online digital destination where I could just learn more about the products from the produce department. And even if I followed my favorite grocer, produce was about maybe 15% of the promotions that I was receiving. You're learning a lot about the center store, a lot about the beer specials, a lot about the frozen foods. You're not necessarily getting all the information that you're craving and wanting about fresh produce.

Furthermore, very little was on online at the time to educate people on the farming stories as well as how to select store and serve all of these fruits and vegetables. And I personally believe that education and how to use our products is just absolutely critical in our industry's quest to increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables in both volume and variety. I think that as Americans, we all want to actually eat more fruits and vegetables and there are an abundant amount of studies that support that claim. But yet we're still in a society, we're only about 90% of us are eating the recommended amounts. So the education curve is real, especially as it relates to the bolt produce items where folks don't know what they're supposed to look like on the shelf when they encounter them at the grocery or the farmer's market, to where they store them when they get home, to how they prep them to serve them to their family.

So under that concept was really how my business began. And it was 2012 like I said previously. And I actually pitched this to my former employers because I'm the marketing manager at the B2B stage of the supply chain. And I'm sitting here thinking to myself if I'm in charge of this place like if I were the CFO or the CEO, I'm eliminating the marketing department at Indie fruit. And like, here I am the marketing manager. So that was not a good place to be in. But at the same time, it forced me into this space of innovation to identify how can I maintain my job because I was very passionate about it. I loved my job. I thought I was going to just retire right there at that cubicle on Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis. And so I had absolutely no intentions at the time thinking that the Produce Moms would spin-off to what it is today in 2020.

It was 2012 where I pitched it. It was on a Friday afternoon. I was in the president's corner office, bosses office. And honestly, I thought I was getting fired. And in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, well, they finally figured it out. This marketing department's pointless. But what I was asked during that meeting was, what are your ideas for our 2012 marketing program at Indianapolis Fruit? And that was when I said to them, "I think we should start a blog. I think we should name it the Produce Mom. And the Produce Mom was the name initially. And I could author it, I've already purchased the URL because I had been innovating or trying to decide what's the right next move for us. I would be happy to transfer that to the company and together we can bring forward a marketing platform that we can actually make money off of."

And I explained it to them in that meeting that after seven years at the sales desk, I knew that our business, our entire profitability as a company was in how well we purchased the fruits and vegetables because the market actually dictates the sale. Your profitability and wholesale distribution is 100% on how well you buy your products as well as the logistics within your operation. But I at that time I told them, I was like, look, we ... It was kind of this like point of confusion for me because I know from sitting at the sales desk for seven years and really this is just the game at a wholesale distribution. Like if someone comes into ... If someone sends you a price quote that five cents less than the person you bought the product from last week, you are going with the ... you're saving the nickel and you're buying it from the other guys.

So the thought of vendor loyalty really, from my perspective just wasn't there. But at the same time, when the market conditions are tight, you need vendors taking care of you. So like you can't have it both ways. So how could we create a medium under which we were enticing our vendors to treat us with more loyalty despite the fact that we are wholesale distributors? And part of being a wholesale distributor is finding that purchase price that is going to empower you to be profitable with your sale. And so that's how I turned the Produce Mom into a business model. And I explained to them, "Look, the only thing that's out there right now for our industry, mind you, it's 2012, are blogs."

If there is a blog, it really looks and feels and reads like Wikipedia. It's not connecting with the end consumer. It's very scientific. It's a lot of terminologies that folks don't even understand and it's frankly just contributing to the confusion with agriculture. But really what most of the matter, what most of the scenarios were is these farmers aren't telling the brand story, at least not in a way that's going to reach the end consumer. And I felt strongly as a mother of a three-year-old and a one-year-old at the time, I felt strongly that, hey, this is the future. As a young mom myself, I want to know where my food is from. I mean, I was the mom calling the Kroger when I purchased my baby food to find out who their organic baby food was certified by. And I know that I'm not alone.

Like that might've felt a little true. Yes. In Indiana in 2012 that might've been like, who is this lady? But I knew that that was the future of food. And look where we're at today with how transparency and equitable food and sustainability and knowing about how your products are raised on the farm, transported and then put on the shelf in a sustainable way. It's so important. It's like one of the most critical things in growing trends and consumer preferences today. So I felt strongly like that was the future. And that was how I got the executive board to really buy into this. That and the fact that the only investment would have been the $5 99 cent domain transfer, which I was willing to do for free. I didn't charge them for the $5 and 99 cents. We utilized a free WordPress template and it was just my time for the blogging.

So they had me write a pilot blog right there in that meeting and it's still published on the website today. It's titled, Who Is The Produce Mom? And I'll never change that blog even though I don't, I probably would not write a blog like that today, but I'll never change it because it represents such a critical moment in the brand's development. And it was by reading that blog where the executive team at Indie fruit was like, "Oh, we get it now. Yes, this is entertaining. This is fun. This could go somewhere." And so for three years, we built it together at Indie Fruit. It was my work for hire. I was the Produce Mom, the consumer marketing manager of Indianapolis Fruit Company, a wholesale distribution supplier for the specialty crop agg. And I loved it. I absolutely loved it. And we really, we really built something special.

And my salary was paid by the Produce Mom. They segregated the accounting and definitely, I was held to the responsibilities just like any entrepreneur would be. I had to generate the income to pay the bills. And so it was really critical. The way that they treated me was just so paramount in my ability to do what I am doing today, taking it on my own. And I'll never forget that day in April 2015 where they were like, "Bring your laptop. We love what you're doing at the Produce Mom. We want to talk, we want to go over the new website and take you to lunch." And I thought that's really weird. They're not taking me to lunch. I ate the salad bar every day for nine and a half years at my desk. They knew that I had no interest in going to lunch and I knew that they weren't trying to take me to lunch.

So I again, that was the second time I thought I was getting fired to the point where I actually told my husband, I was like, "Hey, I'm going ..." Like we were going to work and I was like, "Oh, by the way, I'm getting fired today." And he was like, "You're not getting fired. Like why would you say that? You have such great relationships with their vendors and you're doing so much good work." And I was like, "No, they're telling me to go this offsite lunch and bring my computer. Like I'm just not stupid." And he was like, "Well, something's up. But I don't think you're getting fired." And he was right. Something was up. They had decided that as a business that's focused on wholesale distribution, they were done with the Produce Mom. And so they presented me at that lunch a legal document that basically laid out two pathways. And that's when I really ... that was the first time in my life where I'm like, "Wow, I'm at a crossroads."

In hindsight, we can often identify where the crossroads are in my life. That was the very first time in my entire life where the moment it happened to me, I was like, "Wow, this is like you go left or you could go right. There is no going forward at this point. You are at a crossroads." And so my two options were to go back to my job as a sales representative, which as I said, I loved for the seven-plus years that I did it. But for focusing almost three years on marketing and building the Produce Mom from a free WordPress blog to what it was in 2015, there's just no way that I was going to ... And so I said to them right away, I read option a and I said, "Well, I'd be a caged animal." And I said, "I'm not doing that. I'm going with option B." Option B was to buy it and it was a tremendous investment.

And I was like, I don't know how I'm going to do it. And that's when the tears kind of came down my face. I didn't want to cry in front of them, but just like any entrepreneur builds their business was how I was helped ... that was the role I had at the Produce Mom with building it for Indianapolis Fruit Company. And so it very much, it hurts to think how am I going to do this? And so staring at that number knowing that it was more than the home my family and I lived in, knowing that like there are weeks where we can't pay the daycare and the mortgage on the same week because we just don't have the money, iI was like, "Oh my gosh, what am I going to do?" And so I came home, told my family what kind of position I was in and they all agreed with me. You would be a caged animal, you have to go for this. Like you will regret it every day for the rest of your life and be miserable.

And so I'm really thankful that I had their support from the beginning. So I cashed out my 401k. I borrowed money and my husband and I closed on the business on August 31st, 2015. And since then it has been owned and operated by me and it feels really good to be able to say I own the Produce Moms 100%. And for the first year of owning the business, I almost spent too much time emphasizing like I'm the owner, I'm the owner, you know? And so then what happened was I realized as I was preparing for the Produce Mom 2.0, I was like, "What is the future of this brand?" As I was going through that strategy exercise and the SWOT, and just the critical thinking and development, strategic planning. I thought, oh my gosh, I've created a monster because this thing has now become equivalent to me.

And I very strongly feel the same way I started off this conversation with how compelling and global fruits and vegetables are, and how meaningful they are to every human being's life. I wanted, I always had a desire to build this brand to have that same type of light and ethos, and that is bigger than one individual. And so it was 2017 on Thanksgiving when we announced that the Produce Mom was now the Produce Moms and went through a rebrand and really came forward with the messaging of this is a community. This is a movement. This is a lifestyle. And yes, Lori Taylor is our founder and gosh darn it, I always will be. But this really isn't about me. This is about the growers we represent, the supply chain stakeholders, the end consumer and really anyone and everyone that wants to help make the world a better place by helping folks eat more fruits and vegetables. There is a place for you to connect and learn with the Produce Moms.

And so that was probably the single best thing I've done in my entrepreneur journey was go through that exercise of like, what are my goals for the future with this thing and what's stopping us from getting there? And really as I evaluate like other entrepreneurial stories, I often identify, I often feel like that is kind of the way that I connect with a lot of entrepreneurs identifying like, when do you have to kind of almost take yourself out of the limelight to let your business thrive? And because purchasing work for hire certainly isn't like your standard entrepreneurial startup journey. And so, but doing the most entrepreneurial stories have a moment where the founder has to really almost do an ego check and say, "My brand is bigger than me. My goals and my dreams are bigger than my face and my personality and my personal being. This work that I'm doing is for the broader good and the broader population."

So that was definitely the best thing I ever did for the business was the rebrand. It has opened up the door for some tremendous opportunities. We are working at an enterprise-wide level with the Kroger company. We worked at ... Yes, it's been great supporting their Food Is Medicine initiative, they opt up strategy and really bringing fruits and vegetables to the forefront of their Kroger health mission and messaging. And then the other big opportunity that arose after the rebrand was we started working with Viacom in a strategic relationship to support Nickelodeon's efforts to make fresh fruits and vegetables more playful and fun. And they have a responsibility because really no one in the world talks to more kids per day than Nickelodeon. And so it was incredible that they recognize that like we've got to do our part. And so it's been absolutely wonderful to be able to educate the team at Viacom on what the fresh produce industry is all about and how they can be better stewards of not just the health of children, but the messaging surrounding fruits and vegetables.

Dan: Thank you so much for sharing all that. What a great story. First of all, I mean and really thank you. I mean so many different things we could talk about. One, we just got a Ph.D. in the produce department, so thank you. I mean the produce industry but also the inspiration in terms of how you grew this business and how you pivoted. I for one am grateful that you're here. The reason I reached out to you is that I'm enjoying your podcast and I'm enjoying the content you've got out there, so thank you for that. And I recommend it on a regular basis. The reason this matters is because the space that I'm trying to play in, I'm trying to teach brands how to celebrate those ingredients that you're talking about.

In other words, produce is the gateway to center store. Produce is the first thing anyone sees. More importantly, and I'd like to get your thoughts on this, produce is that simple, they're the simple ingredients that everyone can understand. This is where they begin to experiment with healthy, nutritious food and that leads them into the rest of the store. First, your thoughts and then I want to back up. You've got so many great comments that you made I wanted to talk about as well. I've taken sheets of notes. So now first of all your thoughts on that.

Lori: Well, I definitely think that that produces the gateway. It's why when they plan out the stores, those planograms at the stores are very deliberate. Right? And it's probably the most readily cross merchandised product. Or if you are a product that is not part of the produce department, it is the section of the store that you want your product in. We know that. And as a produce industry marketer and professional, it's so inspiring that we have that kind of respect from the whole plate in the whole grocery store. And I agree with you. All of our senses and flavors in the sense of taste, those are represented in a very big way in the produce department.

And yes. I'm really yet to meet a mom whose child's first soft food wasn't a fruit or a vegetable. So most people, or I mean, maybe even if it's tofu like that's a plant-based protein. So it's really amazing. And the rise of a plant-based society has been just so inspiring for me as someone who loves fruits and vegetables so much. And I just always like to remind people, hey, fruits and vegetables are the OGs of plant base. We are the OGs of plant-based. And I am often a little harsh or forward with my fellow produce industry marketers reminding them like, hey, if we're not careful, we're going to ... and maybe the ship has already sailed to be honest with you. But we are in a position where we might have lost all the momentum of this plant-based movement in America to the meat alternative business, plant-based meat, as opposed to folks when they hear plant-based diet thinking produce department, which is what we want them to think.

And so as I feel like right now looking forward to 2020, that is definitely a, it's a personal goal that I have is to help folks really understand plant-based diet doesn't necessarily mean you have to incorporate these plant made meats or alternatives, plant-based meat alternatives. It's how much fruit and vegetable are you consuming with each and every time you're eating food. So to kind of bring it back to your question, it's a big yes, Daniel. It's a very big yes that fruits and vegetables are the building block of every meal. You ask, if you walk into any restaurant, I don't care if it's QSR or a white tablecloth fine dining. Fruits and vegetables have a very important role in those menus. And it's just, it moves my soul and keeps me going.

Dan: Thank you for sharing that and again, love your passion. I'm so thrilled to have you on. Thank you again for making time for me today. Let me talk about something you just mentioned. Losing that momentum, I have a belief that the only way that retailers can remain relevant, relevant, meaning how do I get you the consumer to come back into your store time and time and time again? How do I encourage you to not shop on Amazon or some other online site? And the way you do that is providing customers with what they want, right? I mean, it sounds pretty simple, but a lot of people overlook that. So here's my take on it. I think a lot of times the big companies, the big retailers commoditize the consumer. In other words, all females are the same. That's not true. Some females actually look at the package, have different beliefs or whatever. Not all males are the same. Not all ...

And my point is that when you start really identifying what's unique about that consumer and you start focusing on what the consumer is, I call it the ripple in the pond. In other words, where do they begin? The consumers that they get it, that understand that if you are what you eat, what you eat matters, and if you eat what you matters, that's going to give you the nutrition that you need. Therefore, spending a little bit more on produce is cheaper than buying the cheap stuff. It's healthier, et cetera. So anyhow, focusing on that and leveraging that to drive customers in their store is how a retailer remains relevant.

The point I wanted to make Lori, is that with all the online threats, protest is the one area of the store that they have a competitive advantage. Because people don't trust their produce to be picked by someone else, literally someone else and then delivered to them. They don't trust that they're going to get the value or the quality that they would choose on their own. So as you're talking about that, how do you leverage that in your conversation? Or how do you recommend.

Lori: I think that I think most folks in the supply chain will agree with that exact statement. And it is always nice to remind people like, hey, pay more attention. Whether I'm talking with my colleagues at Kroger or speaking at an industry event, pay more attention to what's happening in the produce department because we are a key component to brick and mortar grocery sustainability and if not the leading component to be honest with you. And I definitely, it's tough because everything is commercialized. Everything, whether it's where the box of center store item appears on the shelf, to who has the premier ad placement, it's all very much a pay to play game. And it's one reason why food is so affordable in the United States is because grocers are able to make ... the whole food supply chain is able to make money through alternative verticals such as ad placement or real estate within the store or shopper data and marketing.

So many of those things contribute to our nation's food security. So I'm not mad about that. And plus I'm a capitalist, so I think it's great. But I definitely think it's important that grocers, and I'm starting to see the tide shift somewhat. I'm starting to see like the campaigns we're working on with Kroger or the strategies or even just as I watch the growers that we work with and how they engage with their retail partners, I'm starting to see an understanding of the fact that there's just not that kind of commercialization dollar within the produce industry. So yes, we want you to promote fruits and vegetables, but no you can't come back to us and say that the farmer has to pay for it because the margin just isn't there.

And we'll do what we can. We'll compromise with you. We'll support the messaging through their investments with consumer marketing. But I think too, that that lack of ... and there are budgets, but they're very small in comparison to, I mean gosh, like CPG or even dairy and meat where they are conglomerate efforts. Those are, you think about, you think anyone who's growing spinach is going to contribute to a campaign that's promoting citrus? No. Like why should they? And so that's another reason why our industry as a whole or the department as a whole is at a disadvantage with our to market strategy. And that's one reason why my business has a place. And that's one reason why we as the Produce Moms as a brand is a catalyst in the marketplace is because I recognized that void and I created this business to serve both the consumer audience as well as the supply chain audience.

And so I definitely agree with you that produce is the pinnacle. It's why it's the first department you see when you walk into the store. And I just, I think that we're just going to continue to see more and more innovation around what's happening at produce. And I also, I think you're going to also see as they get more data on shopper behavior, I think you're going to see that a lot of folks, they might be participatory in things like online orders or curbside pickup. But I personally know a ton of people. We get a ton of feedback at the Produce Moms like, "Hey, I do curbside pickup and have them loaded in my car. And while they're doing that, I run into the store and buy my produce." Because I've had way too many scenarios where they had been disappointed with what was selected for them in the produce department.

And I think that comes down to many different things. Like first of all, fruits and vegetables are, outside of the seafood, but most of the seafood is frozen or frozen. So it really is probably the most perishable thing within the grocery store. Second of all, like I was mentioning how at the top of the show, that cultural connection with your fresh food and the way that we live our life. I mean, people want to buy the potatoes that look like the potatoes that their mom bought, that their grandma bought and then they're going to make grandma's potato casserole. So that's just the way our industry is and we're really proud of that. You know, I mean, I think it's a great thing and I think that it's why farmer's markets are so dominated by our products. The concept of browsing and selecting what you want. And I love that that passion and consumer preference lives in traditional brick and mortar grocery.

Dan: And it's so important to have it in there because that's where as you said, that's where we first start getting integrated or start to understand this. One of the things you're talking about is a cultural connection. I've always talked about how food is that common language. No matter what your ethnicity, your language, anything else, this is where we can agree that this is where we can come together, I should put it that way. But to go one step further, one of the things that I'm trying to change in the industry, as I'm trying to teach brands that they don't need to apologize for having quality ingredients. You've talked about that a lot. My point being is that you, again, if you are what you eat and what you eat matters, and if you eat something that's healthier for a few pennies more, that's going to sustain you longer.

So the point being as I'm trying to get teach these brands how to leverage that, there's a point in negotiation point of leverage with the retailers because the smaller brands are overburdened by the demands that the retailers put on them. But yet the smaller brands are the ones that are reaching out and going an extra mile for the farmers. So to your point, I agree farmers should not have to pay for any of the promotions. However, the brands I believe should be celebrating the farmers that they have relationships with and then celebrating the food they put in their products and then leveraging that with the retailer so that instead of becoming ... I think retail is broken. Here's what I mean by that. Retailers, the strategy today is how much margin can I grow out of this single item, this one item, that's all I care about.

The reality is that the customers that come into their store buy more stuff across the store. So if I buy organic produce, I'm probably going to buy organic milk, organic spread, organic bread, organic everything else. When I check out of the store, I'm far more valuable. I'm going to spend more at that retailer store than someone who buys something that is not fresh, not organic, not whatever. The point being is that the consumers that understand this are the ones that are keeping those retailers relevant. So helping the brands leverage these strategies to help the retailer remain relevant in lieu of some of the fees that choke the heck out of them. The big brands, that's the strategy, but it's kind of unique marketing strategy and again, it focuses more on what do you the consumer want? You touched on that a minute ago and then how do I help you reach that by giving you what you want. Oh, you want quality products? Here are the products that you buy when you buy my product. And oh, by the way, that journey toward my product starts in the produce section. Your thoughts?

Lori: Couldn't agree with you more. And I definitely believe that the path to purchase definitely begins right there. And I do, I think one call to action for anyone that's working in the supply chain. I definitely want to remind folks that digital success, which is like one of the top quests for everyone and how can we be more of a tech brand and how can we be more digitally savvy? It's not just e-commerce. You definitely need to commit to strategies to connect digitally with your consumers and reach them and media the same way all of these other very powerful brands are. I mean, look at what the sneaker industry is doing and look outside of ... I mean, one thing that I ... the one thing that's a point of frustration for me as a produce industry marketer is too often we are saying, "Oh, we need to be more like PepsiCo or Coca-Cola or Frito-Lay.

And it's like, well, we're never going to be CPG and we shouldn't want to be like CPG because our products are so very different from CPG. And our budgets are so very different from CPG. Instead, let's look at brands that have really built a movement and a lifestyle out of them. And whether it's what's happening in the sneaker industry with what like I think Jordan was the first, Air Jordan is a lot more than a sneaker and or like what has happened in the cooler industry with Yeti. Those are brands that move your soul, you know? And we as the food industry are so well positioned to do that. And with what's accessible to us in this digital communication era, we can succeed with that. And I think grocers should absolutely start looking at themselves as lifestyle brands.

Dan: You know Nike started by the owner taking rubber and using it on a waffle iron, tie back to food, just kidding. But I don't think of Nike's being a nutritious supplement. Just kidding. But I agree with you completely. I am constantly urging brands to develop a digital online community around their brand. My point being is that again, a point of leverage, a point of building a community. So if the brand has a community outside of traditional retail and they nurture that community better way for manage your trade marketing budget, et cetera. But more importantly, that's where to your point, you can have the greatest opportunity to educate a brand, et cetera. Then once you've got a robust community, leverage that to drive sales within the retailer, again, helping the retailer remain relevant. Sort of the best of both worlds.

But to your point about we shouldn't try to become a big CPG company, that is the biggest thing, the biggest roadblock, biggest bottleneck I run into and working with these brands. The mindset is this is the way we need to do it because this is a way we need to do it, that's wrong. Big brands spend most of their time as you know, talking at us, "Hey, we're the big brand. We're the best you need to buy our stuff, et cetera," where the small brands can have these intimate conversations with you. Same as we're having on this call today. Your thoughts?

Lori: I agree with you and as you're explaining that connection and the differences in communication styles, I'm actually being reminded of a couple of brands within the produce department, so I'd like to call them out because I think it's a great way for people to kind of connect the dots here as to what we mean. There's a new brand it's, I don't even know if this brand is a year old yet. Joolies, it's a brand of Medjool dates. I believe that they're under the Venice brands portfolio. They're doing some amazing things and they're bringing a level of excitement to our produce industry that is very much like the Expo West approach. You go to Expo West and you don't necessarily see a whole lot of fresh fruit and vegetable brands, if any. And Joolies is definitely, they're bringing that Expo West style of marketing and excitement to the produce department.

So a ton of gratitude for them, for what they're doing as well as their transparency and the way that they're talking to directly to consumers. Another brand that comes to mind is the veggie noodle companies, Cece's Veggie Noodle Company. They've done an amazing job of making sure that they're bringing products. They listen to, they're not talking at us, they are listening to consumers and creating their strategy based off what consumers are demanding point in place, their launch of the new veggie ramen bowls and they've got the, I think it's a delicata squash fry that's coming out. And their brand innovation-

Dan: Sounds tasty.

Lori: Yeah, I know right? And Mason Arnold, he was actually a guest on the Produce Moms podcast. He has an amazing entrepreneurial story, still has his hand very much in the business today and was named I think number three on the Inc 500 list as one of the top three fastest-growing brands. So that's definitely a brand to watch out for. And when I think about everything you just said Daniel, those are the two brands that stand out as one that's a little bit further along in their journey with Cece's, the veggie company. And then one that's really just beginning, but I think they're going to come in and make a big splash and bring a ton of excitement to a commodity that's often overlooked. You know, it's kind of on the shelf behind the bananas and a lot of people have never had a fresh date. So it's going to be exciting to see what happens.

Dan: I know a guy that imports dates and I've had a lot of great conversations with him about the history and there's so much more to it than just something that your mom put in a fruitcake years ago. But thank you for sharing that. In fact, one of the reasons I actually I found you as I listened to your episode, your conversation with Christie Farms. And that was a great conversation and actually, I was you go back and listen to it. That was where I was recommending here's a strategy that you can leverage your brand to drive center store sales, et cetera. But the point being is that she's got an audience, an opportunity for an audience that can help educate them and work with them and nurture them, et cetera, to help them as a store. But I'll certainly check out these other two brands. Would love to have a conversation with them. When you talk about an Expo West experience, what do you mean by that? Because as you know, that's coming up in a month. Are you going to be there?

Lori: I'll be there. Of course. Yes, I'll be there.

Dan: Id like to meet you.

Lori: Thank you. I'm an active member of the New Hope Network Influencer team and so it's definitely a space I'm really passionate about. And in 2020, I think that you and your colleagues are going to see the Produce Moms being more active. And the natural products industry. So yeah, yeah, I really believe that that's the future of center store. It's influencing the value-added or the snack offerings that you're seeing within the produce department. I'm really passionate about what Expo West stands for and the way that its business for good. It's food with integrity, all those taglines that a lot of us best for you category food marketers say, that's what I mean when I say Expo West.

It is connecting the human element to the food. It's connecting the environmental, the sanctity of the environment to the way that we're bringing the foods to market. It's just this very holistic, mindful approach to food production. And mindfulness is, it's definitely a growing trend in all things food and beverage. It's one of the top trending new diets with women my age. 38-year-olds are like, "I don't really want to follow a diet. What do I do?" I guess I'll be more mindful. And there are deliberate practices and the no diet diet, which is simply just practicing mindfulness, that are really on the rise with middle-aged women. And I think that you're going to see that mindfulness come through with all food. And again, everything starts right there in the produce department.

And I tip my hat to every single exhibitor at Expo West, every single marketer that's involved with those brands or producer because you've changed the food industry for the better, for the best for perpetually. I mean there is that gathering of brands and like-minded food and beverage professionals has disrupted our industry to the point where it is a true force. There is no conference like Expo West and or gathering of food and beverage professionals like it. And I would say all eyes are on Expo West in terms of identifying what the next big trend is or what type of marketing style we need to bring forward, whether it's in packaging or in digital promotions or even trade show presence. How are we promoting our products to our trade members? So I'm really looking forward to meeting as many folks as I can when I'm in Anaheim this March.

Dan: Looking forward to meeting you hopefully. I'm definitely going. Yeah. I'm a huge fan of Expo West. In fact, my mission is to make our healthy way of life more accessible by helping them, those particular brands get their products in more store shelves and into the hands of more shoppers. And so I'm thrilled the fact on that note, this is exactly what I'm going to be talking about. I'm giving a talk to the Canadian Organic Trade Association on exactly this. So I'm thrilled to be able to do that. But more importantly, this is what I'm talking about, that ripple in the pond. This is where that ripple starts. These are where those conversations begin in terms of nutrition, diet, health and wellness, et cetera. And that's the focus of this podcast. So thank you for sharing that. I know we don't have a lot of time left. Is there anything that you want to share that-

Lori: I've enjoyed this whole conversation just so you know.

Dan: Oh, it's been a blast. Thank you. I've been looking forward to this for a long time, so thank you. Is there anything you'd like to share? We also want to talk about how to get a hold of you and where to learn more about you. Again, I'm a huge fan.

Lori: Thank you.

Dan: I was so thrilled to be talking to you today. Is there anything else you want to share, any advice you want to give to brands and then maybe some key learnings that you've learned from talking to brands of your podcast and different events?

Lori: Well, I'll start with my advice. It's kind of a line that I repeat and repeat and repeat and I will continue to do it until we are in a scenario where more Americans are eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. And that message is when you are choosing a fruit or vegetable, you're making an excellent choice. That's it. I mean there is a lot of over-complication out there. And I want to make sure that the end consumer, as well as supply chain stakeholders, understand that we really have a responsibility to keep it positive when it comes to fruits and vegetables. We want to encourage the world to eat more of them. We want to encourage America. We're 90% of us are not eating the recommended amounts and over 90% of kids are not eating the recommended amounts of vegetables.

We have to be mindful of that when we come forward with our promotions and our marketing and make sure that we are sticking to the facts, not necessarily passions. And we have to make sure that we're keeping the produce department a very guilt-free positive space. There's no reason why anyone should second guess their choice to pick up fresh fruit or vegetable and serve it to themselves or their kids. And so that is always one of my like that's kind of my soapbox, and it's one reason why I think people who ... I know it's one of the top reasons we've been able to curate the audience we have. People feel like it's a very much, an approachable, positive environment where we're just going to learn more about fruits and vegetables and there's no judgment and that's really what it's all about.

And so that would probably be my leave behind from the Produce Moms. And we need to eat more fruits and vegetables in both volume and variety. And we're all on this journey together. I mean, there are some days where I eat more peanut butter pretzels than anything else in my house, and that's not okay. I've got a refrigerator full of fruits and vegetables and I'm choosing the peanut butter pretzels. But that the struggle is real for all of us. And how can we all support one another in that transformation? And I think that these brands that you support Daniel, these natural food products brands, these brands are doing a great job of bringing the flavors and the ingredients of the purchase department flavor-forward in what they're producing.

I think that the farmers that we work with at the Produce Moms are doing a great job of making sure that their product is accessible. You're seeing a tremendous amount of growth and our value-added ready to eat sections in the produce department. Big fan of those. I always tell people like, "Gosh, we waste at home about 40% of what we buy." We had Dana Gunders on the podcast and the author of Waste-Free Kitchen and the vast majority of ... or I'm sorry that that starts a little off. It's 40% of what has grown actually ends up in the trash with the majority of that 40% actually occurring in the home kitchen. It's not necessarily occurring at the grocery store on the farm. And so that is definitely, that's something we have to get better at. And so all of the marketing that you're doing, all of the innovation work that the industry is doing to make fruits and vegetables the easy choice, the fun choice, the delicious choice.

And then, oh my gosh, on top of it, it's the most nutritious choice. It's a wonderful thing. So those are some closing thoughts. In terms of what I've learned from my podcast. We just published I think episode 83 I'm not sure are-

Dan: Congratulations.

Lori: Yeah, I don't know when our podcast will publish, but we're over 80 episodes now at the Produce Moms. And I've talked to the most amazing, heartwarming people. And I would say that my key learning and my key takeaway is there's no industry in the world that has the passion and dedication that the food industry embodies.

Dan: Very true.

Lori: I mean, we are such a collection of passionate, intelligent, driven, career-focused, mission-focused individuals coming together for a grander purpose. And really when you gather people like that, it's just we're in a really good space. I feel so blessed to work in this industry and to consider the people like yourself Daniel, your listeners, our listeners today, the guests that I've had on my podcast like it's just really a blessing to be able to call individuals like these my colleagues. That's a wonderful thing. And we are definitely, my key learning is we are the industry of business for good.

Dan: Just like I always say, oh, sorry, go ahead.

No, thank you for sharing that. I am always saying this is what makes natural, natural. A community of likeminded people focused on making a lasting difference. My belief is that this is how I'm going to change the world by helping these brands, et cetera. Same as you are by changing the way you think about food. Thank you so much for coming on. Real quick because I know you've got to go. How do we get ahold of you? How do we get in touch with you? Where can we find your podcasts, et cetera?

Lori: Well the podcast is pretty much on every platform that you're probably listening to your podcasts on. We're certainly on iTunes and Google and Spotify, Stitcher, the Produce Moms podcast. You can view us online theproducemoms.com. And I'm on LinkedIn and very active so please connect with me, Lori Taylor, founder, and CEO of the Produce Moms.

Dan: Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. I know there are a lot of things that I wish we could have talked about. We could have talked for hours, but I want to respect your time. Thank you again for coming on.

Lori: Thank you, Daniel. Have a great day.

Dan: Thanks. I want to thank Lori for coming on today and for sharing that wealth of information. What a great resource and I highly encourage everyone to go to her website and check it out and of course listen to her podcast too, The Produce Moms. She does such an amazing job of helping people weed through all the noise and the confusion, especially in the produce section. I'll be certain to put a link to The Produce Moms on the podcast webpage and in the show notes. Today's free downloadable guide is my strategic solutions to grow your brand.

This is the foundation that you need to build your brand on. I cover a lot of the key things that we talked about on this podcast episode and other podcast episodes. The things you need to be thinking about. For example, retail math. What formulas do you need to know? You need to know your numbers. What does that look like? Understanding the consumer that buys your product and a lot of other important things. You can download it on the podcast webpage and in the show notes by going to brandsecretsandstrategies.com/session166. Thank you for listening and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

The Produce Moms theproducemoms.com

Thanks again for joining us today. Make sure to stop over at brandsecretsandstrategies.com for the show notes along with more great brand building articles and resources. Check out my free course Turnkey Sales Story Strategies, your roadmap to success. You can find that on my website or at TurnkeySalesStoryStrategies.com/growsales. Please subscribe to the podcast, leave a review, and recommend it to your friends and colleagues.

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