Opinion: sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and produce
By Procacci Brothers Sales Corporation director of marketing Kevin Delaney
I came across a backstage photo of Led Zeppelin from the 1970s. The image, of Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page downing a bottle of Jack Daniels, is now an iconic poster found on many a dorm room wall. However, something else in the photo caught my eye. Next to the alcohol, you can spot a nice spread of fresh fruit. The photo is a little grainy, but I can make out a pear, an orange and a couple of bunches of grapes. That’s right - fresh produce being consumed by the rock gods themselves.
I decided to do a bit more research, and in this process I probably became the first person to google "Led Zeppelin fresh produce". Google wasn’t much luck, but the band's 1976 film, 'The Song Remains the Same' bore usable fruit, so to speak. Within the first 10 minutes of the film, you see Robert Plant snacking on an apple, and John Paul Jones' wife dicing tomatoes next to a bowl of onions. The results proved the point: Led Zeppelin loved eating fresh produce.
So, the obvious question - why this unusual topic?
Our industry faces the stark truth of decreased produce consumption. The numbers are telling; look no further than the U.S.'s obesity rates. It seems like such a simple solution. If people would just eat more fruits and vegetables and partake in a bit of physical activity each day, obesity rates would decline. And not only would these levels fall, but health care costs would go down, people would feel better about themselves, and so on. If the answer is so simple and clear, why aren't consumers making healthier choices?
Here is the scary realization. Consumers are making healthier choices. Unfortunately, their "healthy choices" now include 100-calorie cans of soda and all natural potato chips. Fellow www.freshfruitportal.com contributor Lisa Cork put it best when she presented at the New York Produce Show in December 2013.
"Junk food is getting healthier and western stomachs are full," she said.
This is a scary combo. You understand the junk food part, but here is what Lisa means by "western stomachs are full". In order for produce consumption to increase, consumers will need to substitute something out of their normal diet to make room for additional fresh produce consumption. Produce marketers should focus on this. The industry is up against a giant and it's going to take a complex, multi-pronged, all-hands-on-deck approach to address it; a topic I will address down the road in a future article.
Fresh produce is competing against food that tastes better, looks cooler, lasts longer, and is more convenient to eat. We're up against consumer misperceptions that feel produce is expensive, tainted, and even unsustainable. Lastly, we're up against ourselves. Companies in our industry always look for the edge: promote organic, promote local, promote domestic, promote sustainable.
These promotions are necessary and make sense because consumers can make educated choices. However, every time produce is marketed or promoted under one of these banners, does it end up devaluing fresh produce as a whole? Do these promotions ultimately give consumers an excuse for not eating healthy when their ideal option is not available?
Here is what the Led Zeppelin photo symbolizes. At one point, fresh produce was for rock gods like Led Zeppelin. Consumers were hungry for our product. They had room in their stomach for our product. They trusted our product. They consumed our product in great proportion. Then, eating habits began to evolve with the introduction of new junk foods and sugary beverages.
A similar evolution happened in the music industry if you consider pop music as the junk food of the music industry. Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder recently discussed the growth of "pop music" with Rolling Stone Magazine, questioning whether any of the summer's pop songs had any "fiber" in them.
"When there’s a pop song that seems a little bit better than the others, it’s usually one that has some real guitar, real drums in it. I still feel like the best stuff has natural elements," Vedder told the magazine.
Pay close attention to how the music industry attempts to reintroduce rock and roll. If rock can make a comeback, then so can fresh produce.