by BRIAN LOCKHART
A recent report by the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre indicates the Ontario’s tender fruit, apple and grape industries must change their marketing strategy to regain former profitability.
Although the document is “another tool in our arsenal,” Len Troup, chair of the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers Marketing Board, warns it contains “no miracles.”
A draft of the report was presented to the producers’ marketing board March 1.
The study was completed by consulting firm Deloitte & Touche and developed from information provided by the centre.
Transitions in the industry, including the closing of two canning factories in the Niagara Region, created a need for a new look at the business, says Don Ziraldo, chair of the centre.
Ziraldo says the report is “a compilation of a good number” of 14 strategic planning reports the centre had previously produced. All of the research, including the most recent report, was funded through the federal and provincial Ontario Vineyard and Transition Program.
The most recent report suggests a move from a supply based industry — growing what is available and hoping customers will choose that product — to one that is market driven.
“We are market driven,” notes Troup. “If you grow what the market doesn’t want, you’re dead.”
“Successful marketers have to meet the expectations of the buyers,” he adds. “I think most of us do that but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.”
The report also recommends the industry focus on the end consumer. With the number of major buyers reduced to “three or four” from over 40 three decades ago, Troup says the end consumer is already a priority.
“Yes, we need to be better and we’re going to try to do that,” he says. But growers have two customers — the wholesaler and the end consumer. “If we don’t make the first sale to the wholesaler the consumer will never see it. We have to first get his buy-in to get him handling our product. The product must come out looking good to the consumer with the retail price being competitive in order to make that second sale.”
The strategy will be presented at the annual meeting of Tender Fruit Producers but there are no immediate plans to put any of the suggestions into practice.
“What we are supposed to do is have a look at these recommendations and it’s for us to decide where we want to go with it,” says Troup. “A lot of it is not new, but it’s not a bad thing to have it put in one package,” Troup says.
The producers’ annual meeting takes place March 31, at Hernder’s Estate Winery in St. Catharines.
Brian Gilroy, chair of the Ontario Apple Growers, said he could not comment on the draft report until it was finalized. BF