NatureFresh Farms' Chris Veillon Talks Local and the Ohio Grown Program
- by Jordan Okumura
LEAMINGTON, ON- With New Year’s resolutions in the air, and companies looking to set a pace that will carry them throughout 2017, I checked in with one company helping to innovate the greenhouse-category, to see what some of the key initiatives were as we look toward the year ahead.
Chris Veillon, Director of Marketing for NatureFresh™ Farms joined me to discuss the company’s locally-grown program in 2017, and how brand consistency is not just a vision but a standard.
Q: Why is local such an important concept and element to the program?
Chris Veillon: Many use the word “local” very loosely. Does local mean within 100 miles? 200 miles? 450 miles? A 20-minute drive? To each their own in many respects, but we see our Ohio grown tomatoes as local to the region, especially during the winter months. Ohio grown, let alone Midwest grown snacking tomatoes, are rare! In using the State of Ohio Department of Agriculture “Ohio Proud” moniker on our packaging and in our messaging, we are telling consumers that they can have confidence in supporting Ohio grown tomatoes that are endorsed by the state.
Q: How does promoting Ohio-grown products at retail, for purchase by the end-consumer, benefit the state?
CV: Buying products that are built or grown in the state helps create jobs and ensure economic activity in the region but also raises awareness for agriculture and food production in the state. We believe that a “grown in Ohio” message will resonate with consumers in the Midwest. On top of that, we have seen immediate traction with this initiative when we launched our OhioRed™ tomato program in February 2016. One of the key drivers in a Ohio grown message is that the product is coming from the same grower week-in, week-out, regardless of the season. We may not ship hundreds of thousands of cases a month, but what we do is ensure that when someone picks up a resealable container of TOMZ™ Red Cherry or Red Grape Tomatoes in Cleveland or Columbus or Chicago or Rochester, they know that is grown in Ohio by a grower that they can trust.
Q: What does brand consistency mean to NatureFresh™?
CV: Brand consistency is not about matching the colors of the label or making sure it sure it is shipped in the right box. It is about delivering a product that meets the highest standards we can attain with our varieties. We want to ensure that each and every time a consumer walks in to a grocery store that they always get our best.
Our new product innovation is driving us forward. Not only are we using technology to build better greenhouses but developing growing strategies that ensure we are using the right processes for all of our facilities, regardless of the product. Delivering the same product to the same retailer from the same farm week-in, week-out, regardless of the season, ensures consumers know where it is grown and who it is grown by.
Q: Can you talk to me about one of your most successful initiatives to-date?
CV: Our strategic marketing efforts are focused on our core message, “We Are The Grower.” We are being overly transparent in how we grow and all that we do as one of the largest vertically integrated greenhouse companies in North America.
Through our #GreenInTheCity tour over the last 2 years, we have been tremendously successful in sharing our story about how we grow as we prepared to unveil our Ohio project. Now that we have begun picking and shipping, those consumer whom we interacted with are now purchasing Ohio grown tomatoes. Why? Because they understand who grows them, how they are grown, and feel empowered by the information they have received. Our investment in sharing our message at the grassroots level will help strengthen our position in the marketplace.
Q: So, Chris, what’s next?
CV: Planning is already underway for 2017! We strive to provide the best possible eating experience in all that we grow. Our Ohio tomato program provides consistency throughout the winter months which has never been done before. NatureFresh™ Farms is focused on delivering products that we are proud of. Our growing strategy might be a little different than most who focus on yield and boxes shipped. While we are focused on that too, what we do first and foremost is to ensure quality comes first. We leave our product on the vine a little bit longer to ensure maximum flavor. With significantly less miles to travel from our Ohio greenhouses to a local or regional distribution center, you can bet consumers will enjoy our Ohio grown tomatoes. Healthy doesn’t have to be hard; we just want to make sure it is flavorful.
To read more on NatureFresh™ Farms new product development and expansion efforts, check out a Q&A I recently did with Chris here!
Hello 2017! With more to come from the greenhouse category and a year ripe with initiatives, growth, and innovation – stay tuned to AndNowUKnow as we keep you informed throughout 2017.