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Marketing tips: Branding your fresh produce can give you the edge

Effective branding can make or break your products. Here’s how to ensure that people come back for more.


I’ll start with the bad news: Effective branding costs a lot of money.

The good news is that you can do something about it. If you prefer not to make your product(s) known, that’s your choice.

Remember though that branding will give your products an identity and a reputation – hopefully a good one!

You’ll see the big names moving and selling their products all over the country and if you think you can never compete with them, nobody would blame you.

But don’t lose heart; you can also do it as a small farmer. Here’s how you go about it.

The 3 basic rules of fresh produce branding are:
Top quality. If you’re not producing excellent quality, forget branding until you’re growing the best crops around and people are coming to you to buy your products.

Continuity of supply. It is a basic requirement of marketing that you must always have products available. You can’t have stocks today but not tomorrow, because consumers won’t forgive you – they will turn to a competitor. Think about it: if you went into the supermarket and on some days they’d have sugar on the shelves, but not on others, would you be happy?

Sufficient quantities (volume). To be effective, you must have sufficient volumes so that buyers know they can get your product. You’re trying to build a name for quality and reliability and to do that you must have volumes. Before you tell me you don’t have the quantities the “big guys” have, let me remind you that you’re not competing with them.


Once you have developed your farming to the point where you are comfortable with the 3 basic rules, you have to decide who your target market is. Think very carefully about this; your decision is the key to your marketing strategy.

Research your target market. Find out what people like and what they don’t like, then see what you can do to give them the product they want. Sometimes it is necessary to grow something unusual or different because nobody else is doing it, and you can build your brand that way.

Your target market is the people who should see your brand and buy your product. They could be local consumers in your town; buyers at a fresh produce market; or consumers in the town where the market is located.

Let’s use the example of your local town. You’ve been supplying a local shop for a year or more and things have gone quite well. Now you want people coming into the shop to start asking specifically for your brand. Negotiate with the store manager and ask him if he will give your product a special section on the shelves in the fresh produce department.

Not too much space, because shelf space costs money, but enough for customers to get used to where they can find your product. Explain to him that when customers see your brand and quality they will come back for more and that is what you both want – repeat sales!

If you’re really confident about your quality, you could even offer the manager a “sweetener”; taking back any unsold stock after 2 or 3 days. If it’s lettuce you’re supplying, you should aim to do so daily! But you must be sure of your quality and continuity, and confident that you can replace the old stock with new ones.

When you’re in the store make sure your section is clean, the shelves full, product well displayed and the old stock replaced by fresh stock. It takes a bit of extra management and effort from you, but it means you’re keeping only fresh product in front of customers’ eyes; and that’s what they want.


I can hear you saying, “I can’t afford to take back ‘old’ stock. What do I do with it? I’m not prepared to carry that loss.”

Well, consider this:
If you remove “old” stock, you are maintaining a high standard. This will encourage better sales and, as you supply more and more, so your returns off the shelf will become less. After a while, what you take back will be nothing compared to what you’re gaining in sales.

In the beginning you may be taking back enough stock to re-sell, but that shouldn’t last too long. Don’t re-sell it now with your brand on it; that’s a recipe for disaster: your brand has a reputation to uphold and only the best will do. Rather repack the product in a plain container and sell to somebody else.

I’ve used the example of supplying your local retailer but it’s for you to decide who you want to supply. You need to have an open mind and look for opportunities.

If you have the same product as one of the “big guys” you may find it difficult to compete. So look for alternative products or, if you don’t want to change your product, make sure you’re offering something unique and special that the “big guys” can’t do and that consumers in your town will want.

Also read:
Marketing your fresh produce
The fresh produce supply chain
Fresh produce – let your brand do the selling
Choose the right market for your fresh produce

  • This article was written by Michael Cordes and first appeared in Farming SA.

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