Monday, July 29, 2013

Educating Consumers and Employees on New Meat Names

The National Pork Board and Beef Checkoff Program recently announced new names for some of their meat products in an effort to help customers find and prepare beef and pork.  As you can see by the graphics below, some of the names have changed significantly (for example, pork loin rib chop to ribeye chop and beef chuck eye edge pot roast, boneless to Denver roast).  

Figure 1.  Pork loin name changes. 

Figure 2.  Beef chuck name changes.

Figure 3.  Beef sirloin name changes.
All graphics from

The new names are meant to help bring clarity to the many different cuts available, but how will this affect you, the business owner?  Both employees and consumers will need to be educated on the new names.  Simply labeling meat with the new name will not be sufficient in identifying these changes.  Graphics (like those above) that show what part of the animal each piece of meat comes from should help as well as listing the old name versus the new.  Employees will also need to be trained in distinguishing the new names and then also passing the knowledge onto the customer.  As an ag business owner, you will probably want your employees to spend more time with customers to identify what kind of meal they want to prepare and what cut would work best.  Read more about the new names at

Obviously, this is going to require more work for you, but it may also open up an opportunity to connect with customers.  Talking directly to customers as they enter the meat department is an obvious opportunity, but you can also hold classes, provide samples, and recipes.  

As an ag business owner, how do you feel about these new names?  Do you think customers will embrace the change?  Do you envision an increase or decrease in sales?  How are you planning to educate customers?

As a customer, did you find the old names to be confusing?  Will these new names help you to better chose the most appropriate meat for your recipes?  Do you think you will buy more or less beef and pork because of this?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Packaging Design and the "Brand"

by Sarah Cornelisse, Sr. Extension Associate

In my last post, I discussed the functional purposes that packaging serves for food products.  I'd like to continue the discussion on packaging by covering the role of packaging design with the "brand."  In their book, Packaging Design: Successful Product Branding from Concept to Shelf, the authors lay out seven roles that packaging design plays in the definition of a brand.

Brand Evolution - Brands grow, evolve, and change over time; and product packaging will evolve as well.  Packaging is used to connect with the consumer, and as the brand evolves, so should its packaging to accurately reflect and convey meaning to the consumer.
The owner of this honey business, specifically chose
this unique container (brand identity) for her product to
differentiate it from the competition and to convey the
image of quality to consumers (brand promise).  

Brand Identity - The brand identity consists of the visual, tangible aspects of the brand used to "create an emotional connection with the consumer."  In relation to packaging, brand identity is created through the use of color, symbols, typography, package material, etc.  This aspect of packaging is something that I will continue to explore in future blog posts (so keep coming back!).

Brand Promise - When consumers purchase a product, they are believing that they are getting certain things - a certain level of quality, functionality, contents, etc.  The brand promise is conveyed to consumers through the brand identity.

Brand Equity - Brand equity is the good will and trust that is built up with consumers over time.  Packaging, serving as the image of the brand, conveys the "values, qualities, features, and attributes" of the brand; things that trust is built upon.

Brand Loyalty - The trust that is built with consumers, representing brand equity on the side of the business, hopefully converts to brand loyalty by those consumers.  When brands deliver on their promises and consumers develop loyalty, they are more willing to go to greater lengths to seek out a product, pay more it, or convey that loyalty by sharing it with others - perhaps by "liking" the brand on Facebook, wearing a t-shirt with the brand logo, etc. 

Brand Repositioning - Sometimes a brand has to reposition itself to compete more effectively in the marketplace with its competitors.  When repositioning, a brand has to be cognizant of its existing equity with consumers and carefully consider how any changes to packaging design could impact that equity.

Brand Extension -Brand extension occurs when new products are introduced to the product line or when the brand decides to enter a whole new product category.  Businesses will often try to take advantage of the brand equity that has been built up; one way of doing this is to extend aspects of the packaging design to these new products.

Packaging design plays an integral role in the "brand" and is something that business owners should work to ensure gives them an advantage in the marketplace.  Market research, specifically, understanding how the aspects of brand identity relates and influences the target market is key.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Agritainment Offers Opportunity to Diversify and Increase Income

By Michelle Kowalewski, Extension Educator, Susquehanna Co.

Zembrzycki's have diversified their dairy farm enterprise to
include a roadside farm market and now a corn maze.

(All photos from Zembrzycki's Corn Maze
located in Herrick Center, Susquehanna Co.)
Farmers have learned that diversity in agriculture is a must; and agritainment presents a rising opportunity for agriculture in Pennsylvania.  "Agritainment" is simply providing an opportunity for entertainment in an agricultural setting.  Visitors, or customers, can supply a wide range of revenue-generating opportunities for farms.  Agritainment creates opportunities to entice visitors to your farm, provide education about agriculture, and increase your overall profits.  Examples of agritainment enterprises include pick-your-own fruits and vegetables, farm markets, festivals/fairs, interactive animal displays, corn-maze enterprises, for-fee fishing, bed and breakfasts, and farm-stay vacations.  Many agritainment enterprises have an educational component to teach consumers about 'where their food comes from.'

The first step of considering an agritainment enterprise should be to check whether your proposed land use conforms to your local zoning regulations.  As with any new venture or enterprise, developing a business plan is an important next step.  If you currently have a business plan, revision will be necessary to consider the impact of the new enterprise.  Having a written business plan helps ensure that you have considered all issues pertaining to operating an agritainment enterprise and can help in obtaining financing.  The business plan will also highlight your marketing plan and marketing is a key component to your business's success!

When marketing and advertising your agritainment enterprise, it's important to thing about what will attract customers.  Your agritainment operation needs to be eye-appealing, easy to navigate, and above all - safe.  The first impression will be the customer's last impression and should be positive.  Providing information and attractive signs for guidance will enhance the experience of the customer.  Signs help keep customers within designated areas, well-maintained pathways also provide guidance and safety.

Remember, you are inviting customers to your operation.  Provide a variety of entertainment to encourage return visits.  Listen to your customers and provide them with what they need and you will have a successful entertainment business and add to your income and business story.

Information from this blog post provided from Agricultural Alternatives: Agritainment

Penn State Extension offers some great resources for entrepreneurs looking to expand their horizons in the agritainment industry.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Farm Marketing: Aspects of Direct-to-Consumer Marketing

by John Berry, Extension Educator, Lehigh County

Direct-to-consumer farm marketing enjoys a special space in east coast agriculture.  Not only do we have some of the best land and productive farmers in our midst - we have millions of hungry consumers surrounding our farms.  These ready consumers not only seek farm products, foods and knowledge - they seek a connection to farm experiences.

One of the areas of retail farm marketing and agri-tourism of particular interest for enhanced professional development to many direct-to-consumer farm marketers centers on merchandising concepts.

Merchandising - pricing, product packaging, market facility and fixtures - sums up all the means you can use to sell your product, and encourages the customer to buy as much as possible.

Attractive signage can entice customers to purchase
Signs - product description, consumer awareness and general written communications - are one key element of merchandising.  Signage is your major means of communication with customers.  What you say is important to the customer in choosing what to buy, or whether to buy, so make sure the information on the sign is complete and accurate.  Always make sure your signs are clean and neat - a worn out sign will undo all the effects of an otherwise perfect display.

When you have the room, don't assume that every customer knows everything about even the most basic item.  Don't be afraid to add information like "Best Apple Pie" or "Best Baked Potato."  In any case, all products which are new, unusual, or seasonal, should be adequately signed.

Signs can also be used to promote items that are especially good buys, or tie-ins with other items in your or another department.  Signs can also emphasize nutritional information on particular items.   Signs are provided by many suppliers, trade associations, and organizations like the American Cancer Society.  Use these to best advantage, but don't rely solely on them to do the job.  Good signage can increase your sales, so use your imagination and create your own "best sellers."

Display techniques - what is being done to show farm products in their best light and encourage purchasing - are another key element of merchandising.  Your market layout may be parallel counters with displays in between, or a lateral maze with counters extending into the center.  You may even have chosen a boutique style layout, with displays in clusters.

Jams are displayed using a cluster, boutique style, layout.
Whichever layout you've chosen, the main feature of its design is to control the movement of your customers so they spend the maximum amount of time in your department, and are exposed to all your products.

The manner in which you display your merchandise within this framework can enhance their captivating environment and maximize your sales opportunities.  It would be defeating your purpose, for example, to put all your basic, staple items in one area, when a customer might make his most urgent purchases and then leave your department without seeing what else you have to offer.  To eliminate this problem, scatter your high-demand "power" items throughout your department, next to impulse items.

To further the education of those active in retail farm marketing and agri-tourism (market owners, managers, other personnel, etc.), Penn State Extension is offering a two-day bus tour of twelve premiere farm markets in northern New Jersey and Connecticut with plenty of ideas, education, food and fun for all.

We have something for everyone - seasonal, year-round, produce, food, tourism, value-added, pick-your-own, entertainment and educational farm direct-to-consumer marketing at its finest!  Not to mention the "classroom-on-wheels" as we travel between markets with opportunities to network and learn from each other.

Tour information, details, and registration is available here

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Local Food Business is Big Business in Pennsylvania

by Winifred McGee, Extension Educator, Dauphin County

Over the past couple of years, we've seen a dramatic rise in the number of people who come to the Penn State Extension's Food for Profit workshop.  During this one-day, jam-packed session (pun fully intended), we instructors endeavor to provide the basics in what a person would need to learn, and know, to start a food business.  We provide opportunity for the participants to learn about sanitation, regulation, and inspections from the inspectors - be it municipal health officials or sanitarians from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Food Safety.  The ability to meet these individuals - who fast become the "entrepreneur's first and best friend" - advising them what to do, and not do, to get their business started is often worth the class fee alone.  We also provide the opportunity to discuss food safety practices, niche marketing, social media, effective packaging and labeling, and money matters - financing and pricing - throughout the day.

A Food for Profit participant presents a unique marketing idea
for her activity group's assigned product: a barbecue sauce.
Between September 2012 and June 2013, we've had 219 people attend 11 workshops - 10 in Pennsylvania, one in Maryland - who joined the ranks of the previous 443 course graduates to bring the class participants to 661 since November 2010.  These folks are of all ages (20-somethings through senior citizens) from all walks of life - looking at the potential to turn their food idea into a venture for "extra money," or to full-time employment.  The participants of Food for Profit are not alone, or unusual, in their search for self-employment.  In this book, "To Sell is Human," Danial H. Pink asserts that "the last decade has also witnessed a substantial increase in very small enterprises - not only those that offer products, but one- or two- person outfits that sell services, creativity, and expertise."  Pink supports this statement by referencing:
  • U.S. Census Bureau estimates of twenty-one million "non-employer" businesses - operations without any paid employees...the majority of businesses in the United States.
  • The research firm IDC statistics - 30% of American workers now work on their own and that by 2015, this number will reach 1.3 billion.
  • Some analysts' projections that U.S. independent entrepreneurs may grow by sixty-five million and could become a majority of the American workforce by 2020.
  • Pink's own "What Do You Do at Work?" survey, which asked "Do you work for yourself or run your own business, even on the side?"  Thirty-eight percent of respondents answered "yes."
A little pickle can be the start to "big business"
To illustrate entrepreneurship, Pink profiles the Brooklyn Brine Company - started by disenchanted chef, Shamus Jones, who turned his "hobby" of pickling seasonal vegetables into a full-time business.  Similar to the Food for Profit graduates with whom I've worked, Jones started down the road to self-employment by experimenting with pickle recipes in a "borrowed" commercial kitchen from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., honing the recipes that resulted in Brooklyn Brine opening its doors in 2009.  Now selling a range of products from the standard NYC Deli Pickles to the exotic Lavender Asparagus, jars of Brooklyn Brine are found on shelves of high-end food-shops literally around the world.  Also, like most Food for Profit graduates, Jones has ended up wearing many hats - being the "face" of the company - time meeting distributors, telling the company's story and convincing more stores to stock his products.  He also has sales tasks when he gets back to his production floor - influencing his employees so that they are "stoked to come into work."  This is a combination of traditional selling and non-sales selling that Pink calls "moving."  Pink defines this activity (which he asserts that a majority of us do) as "moving other people to part with resources - whether something tangible like cash or intangible like effort or attention - so that we both get what we want."  A subset of all the "moving" is, indeed, accomplished by successful food entrepreneurs.

Local food enterprises are big business - even when the operations are small.  The consumer demand and entrepreneurs' vision result in not only a variety of products on our tables, but a more energized local economy.  It is exciting to me personally to see the would-be food business owners come to Food for Profit.  I know their enterprises will not all experience the type of success that Brooklyn Brine had, but I know that many of them will work just as hard as Jones did, to see vision become a reality.  Penn State Extension provides our support by doing the "scavenger hunt" - collecting the information from various sources about how to launch a legal, marketable, profitable product and packaging it in a one day event - but the energy and enthusiasm has to come from within the entrepreneur, him- or her-self.  This is the essence of the American Dream; building a way to support one's household while having a great deal of fun.  And, hopefully, the food entrepreneurs will spread the fun on to their employees, customers, and communities.