Monday, December 29, 2014

Encouraging Consumer Purchasing, Part II

Last week I wrote about providing your customers with ideas on how your fresh and processed products can be used in ways other than their primary purpose.  This week I have a couple of more ideas that might just work for your business.

Value-added, but “light”

Processing your own value-added products (for example, processing tomatoes and other ingredients into pasta sauce, salsa, etc.) may seem overwhelming, but you do have another option for offering “meal solutions.”

What might you do if you have most, if not all, of the ingredients for salsa or pasta sauce, but you don’t feel that the private label approach (an item manufactured by another business but labeled as your own branded product) is appropriate for your business?  Or, perhaps you have an idea for a processed product and cannot find the right “finished” product offered by a private label company?

One option is to create a “light” version of a value-added product by selecting a recipe and assembling ingredients in the amounts appropriate for the recipe.  

For example, I’m sure that your customers would probably like to make your family’s award-winning salsa for their New Year’s Eve or Super Bowl party.  What you would need to do to accommodate them would be to assemble enough of each of the ingredients so that your customer would only need to refer to your recipe and prepare the salsa from all that was provided in the package.

If your recipe calls for salt and/or pepper or another pantry staple, you could omit it from the value-added light package and alert the customer that they need to add these one or two ingredients to make the dish.

What food trend does your product pair with or complement? 

Along with suggesting additional ways that your fresh and value-added products can be used as an ingredient or in a unique way, consider how you can link your goods with longstanding and/or the latest food trends.  According to a couple of sources, “fermented” foods such as kimchee and sauerkraut will gain notice in 2015.  Which of your foods would complement these dishes, or what ingredients could consumers buy from you to make their own?

Perhaps you do not make and sell your own alcoholic beverages, but your product would be a perfect pairing for a local wine, craft beer, hard cider, or even a distillery’s hard liquor (we've seen great growth in consumption - and will continue to see interest in these beverages continue).  Where can you find information as to potential pairings that you could suggest to your customers?  Here is a short list of resources:
  • offers suggestions for a fair number of fresh or dried fruits, while provides an Infographic on pairing wine and vegetables.
  • WineFolly posted a wine guide that also provides a list of what prepared foods (e.g. salty foods, vegetable dishes, roasted foods, sweets). 
  • •A downloadable chart created by the Brewers Association shows what beers pair with salads and a wide variety of meat dishes, while a list of foods that pair well with hard ciders can be found here:

While these are just a few ideas, these strategies can help you provide your customers with one, two, three, or more ways to use the products you sell.  You’re really only limited by your imagination.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Encouraging Consumer Purchasing, Part I

In past blogs, our group has discussed the importance of providing food samples, mass customization, benefits of offering value-added products, and other strategies to encourage customers to purchase your products.  Each of these is designed to alert and remind customers about what you sell and increase consumer purchases.   In today’s blog, I wanted to provide a few more ideas that can also help increase purchasing.

How many different ways can customers use your products?

Your customers probably have a pretty good idea of how to use most of your products.  Fresh fruit are eaten without any preparation or they can be used as an ingredient in more common dishes, the same with vegetables.  The value-added products that you offer, such as jams and chutneys, can be spread on toast or crackers. 

There is at least a primary and a secondary food use for everything you sell.  But, there are probably many more ways that your products could be used, and the more ways that a customer can use your products – the more products they might purchase.

You might have noticed this strategy on packages of products you buy for your own household or in magazine advertisements.  For example:

  • A well-know brand of an instant coffee drink suggests using the powder as a creamer in other drinks.
  • “Gourmet” jars of peanut butter suggest uses that go well beyond sandwiches.   Peanut butter is a perfect ingredient for Thai food, African peanut stew, and what would be better than a peanut butter and chocolate s’more (though expect it to be a bit more “gooey”)?  
  • Cereals are no longer just from breakfast - they can be used in casseroles, as breading for meats, and so much more.  
  • Maybe your soy sauce bottle has been in your pantry or fridge for quite a while and only gets used to flavor rice?  A more prominent soy sauce company developed magazines and online ads with Thanksgiving meal recipes that listed their product as one of the ingredients. 

Of course some of these ideas are not new and novel; and consumers probably have a similar recipe already saved.  But, many times consumers need to be reminded about the multiple uses that a product can provide, or the recipe needs to be promoted at the right time of the year.  Might the turkey basting recipe appeal to consumers during the summer?  Maybe or maybe not, but when a consumer (who is not a vegetarian/vegan or one who doesn’t like turkey) thinks about the meal they will have on Thanksgiving, a majority think of turkey and how to give it flavor and keep the meat moist.  Soy sauce, apparently, can do just that.  

So, how many different ways can a consumer use fresh produce and value-added products you sell?  A search on recipe websites, review of any recipes you may have provided customers in the past, or just brainstorming can provide a fair number of ideas.  Another approach is to look at more traditional recipes and substitute one or two of the ingredients listed with your products to change the flavor, texture, or other attribute. 

Once your list of ideas is complete, think about the timing of when you should promote them on your website, via social media, in newsletters, and using in-store signage.

Next week I will take about a couple of other ways that can increase consumer purchasing.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Anything is possible.

As we wrap up our 2014 farm business management experiences, and look to 2015 and beyond – we may consider expanding something we already do, or we may explore a new enterprise. We may even transition to something outside of agriculture.

Our farm business choices are only limited by our imagination!
It is important to keep in mind that “anything is possible!”  Examples easy to recall when emphasizing the openness of potential markets include; 1) bottled water, 2) pet rocks, and 3) gourmet dog treats.

Sticking with the family-companion theme, let’s examine the potential of moving up a marketing channel. I’ll focus on simple hard wood here.

            1,000 board feet of pallet grade hardwood = $240
This same wood as firewood = $580
            Same wood as 1 cubic foot bundles of firewood = $2,760
            Same wood as hamster houses = $2,121,400

Maybe an overly simplistic example, but you get the point – anything is possible. The challenges revolve around actually making a profit with whatever it is we decide to do.

My preferred process for gauging the probability of success for expanding or starting a business is summarized here:

What is the objective?
Can you describe to me (very briefly) what it is you are going to accomplish?

Start at the end
            How much net income would it take to call this effort worth while?

As we develop budgets and project revenues let’s remember some concepts from economics:
Cash costs
            People that operate out of a check book only use this method. If they can pay the input bills they believe they are successful.
Accounting costs
            Folks that use accepted accounting methods to manage their business recognize there are costs other than cash when gauging profitability.
Economic costs
            It may also be meaningful to consider our opportunity costs. I’m not the sharpest spoon in the drawer, but I could work as a laborer somewhere in town and forego my farm income. Am I content with the trade off?

Sure, anything is possible, but is it feasible? I can make all the hamster houses I want. Is it reasonable to assume I could sell them?

I do believe our opportunities are only limited by our imagination! However, the risks are great and we must be considerate before we bet all our assets on a new venture.

Monday, December 1, 2014

New farm risk management tool!

Basics of the new Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) policy

Diverse family farms now have an additional risk management tool available.

WFRP is a new crop insurance policy called for in the 2014 Farm Bill and developed by the USDA, Risk Management Agency. This newly available crop insurance product is not intended for a single specific crop, but for all the crops, livestock, and products that are grown, raised, or produced on your farms.This product may be of special interest to diversified and organic farms that do not have single crop policies or organic price elections available.
This new crop insurance product is available as one response to the needs of many farm families that previously had fewer choices of risk management tools because of their highly diverse enterprises.
Producers should start talking with their crop insurance agent if they are interested in the policy to be prepared for the March 16th sales closing date for WFRP.
WFRP is available in all states and counties of the eastern U.S.Some of the most notable benefits this new insurance option offers include:
  • An $8.5 million liability limit (an increase from $6.5 million under AGR and $1 million under AGR-Lite);
  • 85% of historical revenue coverage level when at least three crops are grown (an increase over the previous 80% cap);
  • a premium subsidy of up to 80% when at least two crops are grown (a significant increase over the highest subsidy rate of 59% provided under AGR-Lite);
  • a premium discount for increased diversification stair stepped up to 7 crops;
  • coverage for both crops and livestock (capped at 35% of expected revenue up to $1 million);
  • inclusion of some incidental processing expenses necessary to make the commodity ready for market, such as washing, trimming, and packaging;
  • replant coverage for a crop losses early enough for replanting; and
  • the continued option to insure individual crops under separate crop policies (cannot be CAT level coverage).
The paperwork responsibilities for the farmer will include:
  • The WFRP Application
  • Whole Farm History Report (last 5 tax years)
  • IRS Tax Form 1040 Schedule F
  • Farm Operation Report (Intended, Revised, Final)
  • Allowable Expenses Worksheet
  • Allowable Revenue Worksheet
  • Beginning and end of year Inventory Reports (if applicable)
  • Accounts Receivable and Payable Reports for beginning and end of year (if applicable)
  • Market Animal and Nursery Inventory/Accounting Worksheet (if applicable)
  • Verifiable complete marketing record for each commodity

The USDA, RMA fact sheet on this new risk management tool is available at:

RMA provides this web site so we can search for certified crop insurance sales agents: