WASHINGTON – Equitable Food Initiative, the workforce development and certification organization that partners with producers, farmers, retailers and consumer groups, is working to shift from primarily business-to-business marketing to awareness of companies to consumers, as it aims to provide support and added value for business partners and EFI certified producers. With increased awareness and brand building efforts comes more responsible growth, driven by farmers® the products become available in the market.
In an effort to refine the consumer message and strategy, EFI has formed a Marketing Advisory Board to provide marketing feedback and information to EFI’s board of directors, staff and certified producers. The board, made up of a diverse set of members from various organizational landscapes, will provide advice and recommendations for consumer outreach to raise awareness of EFI as the brand grows.
The Marketing Advisory Board is currently responsible for assessing consumer trends, broadening the dialogue around the fundamental pillars of EFI’s social responsibility and workforce development programs, and providing context for messages that will resonate with today’s consumers.
EFI has always strived to fulfill its mission by bringing everyone in the supply chain together to find distinct solutions from several angles. EFI seeks to extend this philosophy to its marketing and communications efforts and to include diverse voices and multiple perspectives on marketing and consumer PR platforms.
In order to ensure an appropriate diversity of voices and roles, the board recruitment process took almost a year as industry thought leaders and marketing professionals were invited to participate and the structure of the board was adopted. Current members include:
– Danielle Nierenberg, president and co-founder of Food Tank
– Chris Padgett, Marketing and Digital Strategy Manager for CPG Companies
– Chisara Ehiemere, Senior Research Director, ROSI, NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business
– Christopher Pendergraft, digital marketing strategist
– Yareli Esteban, CEO of Strategar
– Lori Taylor, Founder and CEO of The Produce Moms
– Gissel Neri Corcoles, student president of Minorities in agriculture, natural resources and related sciences
– Miguel Campos, health and safety farm manager
The group had a first virtual orientation at the end of 2020 and at its first meeting in early 2021, developed both a survey of the public and existing consumers who sought to learn more about the priorities for social responsibility and how consumers learn about socially responsible products.
EFI’s existing audience survey received almost 300 responses via an email survey. What was evident throughout the investigation was a clear consumer interest in workers’ rights. This audience indicated that improving the working conditions of farm workers was the most important value of the EFI program. When asked how they would support this, 80% of those polled said they would pay more for products grown through socially responsible operations and wanted to know more about the working conditions on packaging. Respondents also strongly associate social responsibility and workers’ rights with a company’s sustainability efforts. Interestingly, over 60% of audience survey respondents criticized or boycotted a brand because of its actions or beliefs.
The results of the consumer perception survey will be shared with the advisory board later this month. The Marketing Advisory Board will meet quarterly and address specific marketing and messaging issues as developed by EFI’s Marketing and Communications staff.
“The amount of experience offered by our Marketing Advisory Board is astounding and allows for a wide-ranging dialogue on current and future messages from consumers that will be instrumental in the expansion of the Responsably Grown label, Farmworker Assured,” said LeAnne Ruzzamenti , director of EFI. marketing communications. Ruzzamenti continued, “The powerful ideas and the challenge of assumptions help us push our own boundaries on how we think about the program and talk about it with consumers. ”
Equitable Food Initiative is a non-profit certification and skills building organization that seeks to increase transparency in the food supply chain and improve the lives of agricultural workers through a team approach to training and continuous improvement practices. EFI brings together producers, farm workers, retailers and consumers to solve the most pressing issues facing the fresh produce industry. Its unprecedented approach sets standards for labor practices, food safety and pest management while engaging workers at all levels of the farm to produce® fruits and vegetables. For more information on the Equitable Food Initiative, visit fairfood.org.
Check out the list of EFI certified farms at fairfood.org/farms.