The 2009 cherry season is over. It’s time to get over it and find a way to win in 2010, says produce marketing and retail expert Don Goodwin.
Goodwin, president of Golden Sun Marketing, a Minneapolis, Minnesota, consulting firm that specializes in fresh produce, gave the buyer and retail perspective during the Northwest Cherry Institute’s annual meeting in January in Yakima, Washington. With 30 years of produce industry experience, he’s worked for such industry notables as Green Giant Fresh, Target Corporation, Super-Valu, and more recently, cofounded Imagination Farms, a produce marketing company that uses the Disney Garden Produce label to target children.
The Northwest cherry industry needs to learn how to think as one—as a single company—and address issues like fruit sizing, he said. “If it was the Proctor and Gamble Cherry Company and you were all growers, employees, and stakeholders of the company, you’d figure out sizing as it relates to consumer products.”
Goodwin appreciates the fact that growing cherries is not like producing widgets and that Mother Nature has much to say about fruit quality and size. Nonetheless, the industry was challenged last year in putting sizes on the market that the market didn’t want.
“I’m concerned there’s going to be a longer-term residual impact from consumers that got somewhat dissatisfied,” he explained. “I don’t believe that it’s an irreversible situation…but you need to recognize that there’s a long-term challenge there.”
The industry must also work on transparency issues. Companies that succeed are those that have complete supply transparency, he said.
Additionally, more focus is needed on metrics—measuring things like what consumers are buying, what is being picked and shipped. Analysis of such data must be done every year to understand all elements involved with the market.
Goodwin notes that demand-pricing software is available to help marketers look at real-time patterns and predict optimal pricing levels. Signal Demand is an example of a software program used by other commodity groups, he said.
Another option to help in the pricing arena is gatekeeper software being used by lettuce marketing cooperatives. The software funnels pricing information into a central organization, documenting high, average, and low selling prices. The central organization can see who is selling below and above average prices. Such information could be legally shared within a grower or marketer cooperative under the Capper-Volstead Act, he said.
Goodwin, who last wore a produce buyer’s hat seven years ago, now shares his buyer insight with clients, helping them strengthen buyer-seller relationships.
“Think first about what the consumer wants and then teach the buyers what they should be carrying,” he said, adding that most buyers really don’t understand the category or their consumer. “We’re