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Driscoll’s CEO Speaks on Need for Better Fresh Produce Communications

December 06, 2023

From Oct. 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 shows for the floral and produce industries, more than 20,000 attendees from over 60 countries and across the entire supply chain took part in the event. On Oct. 19, Produce Report attended IFPA’s opening luncheon for public relations professionals, which featured an engaging session with Miles Reiter, current chairman and outgoing CEO of Driscoll’s, on the importance of communications in the fresh produce industry.

Lauren M. Scott, IFPA’s chief strategy officer, introduces Miles Reiter.

The grandson of Driscoll’s co-founder and a strawberry farmer himself, Miles Reiter has served as CEO of Driscoll’s for 20 years. Under his leadership, Driscoll’s became the world’s largest berry company, supplying one third of the global berry business. However, Reiter sees the job of the fresh produce industry as much greater than just generating sales and producing profits and believes the industry needs to be better at communicating the benefits of fruits and vegetables. “It’s our job to reproportion the plate of the American population.” This includes better messaging around the lower environmental footprint of the industry (100 pounds of water needed per pound of berries versus 2,000 pounds of water for a pound of beef), promoting the broad range and depth of flavor in produce, and of course, the myriad of health benefits.

However, Reiter lamented that the industry “just isn’t that good in communicating health benefits as we ought to be.” Reiter recalled graduating college in 1971 and reading at that time that 18% of personal income went to food and around 9% to health care. 50 years later, this figure is almost reversed, with chronic illnesses and diseases like diabetes, obesity and heart disease still on the rise, driving increased spending on health care. “If we could reverse this trend, not only would it better for society, but we could grow even better, more high-quality product and offer even better jobs, higher wages.”

Miles Reiter, current chairman and outgoing CEO of Driscoll’s.

This philosophy goes hand-in-hand with the mission, values, and vision of Driscoll’s, which Reiter stressed is focused on creating an experience that goes along with the health message of fresh produce consumption. “Driscoll’s looks to create an experience that people want to share, that they want to repeat. It’s joyful, contentment, and drives repeat purchase…which create better outcomes for society. The job of every piece of product we put out there is to sell the next one.” Reiter went on to note that authenticity is key and must be present inside a company before it can be projected out. Messaging is also important, but a company’s ability to deliver on experience is even more so: to get consumers to try a product, to make repeat purchases, and to remember the brand all requires a positive consumer experience.

In his closing remarks, Reiter emphasized the differences between fruit and vegetable and the need to adopt different marketing approaches for both. “The whole point of fruit is to entice, it’s to be sensual…so when we fail to actually produce fruit that fits the purpose of fruit, people shouldn’t eat it, and they don’t.” In contrast, vegetables have been poorly marketed in America, and 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, this is not the case in other countries and Reiter spoke to the need to learn from other cultures, such as China, on how to prepare and market vegetables. “I get excited getting on the plane to China because it means I get to eat a phenomenal, vegetable-focused breakfast in China — I eat more vegetables in China for breakfast than I eat all day in America. There’s a lot we can learn from other people and life in this.”

Images: © 2023 Produce Report

This article was translated from Chinese. Read the original article.


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