A New Marketing Event Brings an Association a New Crop of Revenue

halved oranges Associations Now March/April 2017 Issue By: Emily Bratcher

The United Fresh Produce Association created a new event to help its members brainstorm about their brands, and it's paid off in more than just one way.

Fresh produce is growing—in the soil and on vines and trees, but also in importance to consumers. For United Fresh Produce Association, the market trends meant the time was ripe to launch a new revenue-generating event.

“Based on research we’ve done with Nielson Perishables, we know that the produce department is the deciding factor in how consumers choose their supermarket,” says Mary Coppola, senior director of marketing and communications at United Fresh.

The availability of fresh produce year-round—as well as the growing number of informed consumers who “want to know where their produce was grown, by whom, and the journey it took to get to their plate”—are fueling this focus on produce brands, she says. And produce-growing methods have proliferated—from conventional to organic and non-GMO local—making produce labels and brands all the more important to consumers.

“Think about the last time you asked someone to pick up some clementines,” says Coppola. “You probably specified Halos or Cuties.”

We anticipate that we'll continue to grow as the swell of produce brands keeps entering the market with new stories, solutions, and options for consumers to choose fresh.—Mary Coppola, United Fresh Produce Association

These trends in produce led United Fresh to launch BrandStorm, a marketing event—or “experience,” as Coppola calls it—that aims to help industry members tell their brand stories and grow loyal consumer bases.

“The concept of produce brands is somewhat new in the last two decades, and as consumers become more loyal to brand stories in experiences, it’s more critical than ever for brands to tell their stories efficiently, effectively, and authentically,” Coppola says.

To that end, BrandStorm features two education tracks—one for seasoned marketers, the other for “green” ones—and general sessions. The event’s signature drink is the Dark and Stormy, to symbolize the natural elements and the frenzy of powerful ideas.

Along with galvanizing the industry, the United Fresh event is also planting seeds for what it hopes will become a bumper crop of nondues revenue. “The industry wants this event, as there is nothing else like it. We’re happy to facilitate it as we move into the black and generate new nondues revenue for the association,” Coppola says.

The event launched in 2015, and attendance grew 30 percent in the second year. United Fresh is expecting even bigger growth in year three. Coppola says United Fresh has learned how to budget BrandStorm to ensure that revenue stays above expenses, always a tricky balance with a new event.

“We anticipate that we’ll continue to grow as the swell of produce brands keeps entering the market with new stories, solutions, and options for consumers to choose fresh,” Coppola says.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Juicing the Brand."]

Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a contributing editor at Associations Now.