Home' Grower : July 2010 Contents The South Australian Grower -- July 2010
Consistency key to
a better branding
SOUTH Australia's largest lettuce producer says
that without branding, he would not be growing
Don Ruggiero (pictured) operates Swanport
Harvest at Murray Bridge and supplies the Staycrisp
brand for 12 months of the year throughout South
Australia and the Northern Territory.
The struggle for survival more than a decade ago
led to development of branded, bagged, iceberg
Targeting consumers has made a world of
difference to the success of the business.
"Rather than grow a commodity where everyone
else was doing a similar thing, we wanted consumers
to identify our lettuce in the marketplace as
something they could trust," Don said.
"We now have the opportunity to promote our
own product, and it's gotten to the point where
people are buying the brand, not just the lettuce."
Consistent quality is the key to success in
branding, where there is no room for complacency.
"You need to draw a line in the sand for the
specification of your product and never, ever,
waver off that specification," Don said.
Consistent supply is just as important, to
maintain brand loyalty.
"Through July and August, we don't cut the
same percentages and we might make no money,
or even lose money -- but it's important to have a
continued brand presence," he said.
"Sometimes you have to make those sacrifices
to make the rest of the year work. Growing and
marketing are two very different things. You can't
just put your product in a bag -- there's a lot of
work going on in the background to make that
successful -- continuous market research and
Don believes growers need to work together to
develop an industry direction, based on market
factors and consumer behaviour.
"There's a misunderstanding of what consumer
needs are" he said.
"Growers who are only thinking about how cheaply
they can grow lettuce, and want to cut 90pc of their
crop, are just shooting themselves in the foot.
Commodity groups need to work out the level of
consumption during the year, compare that to the
amount they are growing, and try to regulate supply.
"It's all about being in touch with your market,
knowing your market and how you can best
promote your product."
enables them to choose South
Australian-grown produce will
help to keep the lettuce
industry afloat and facilitate
expansion to grow a year-
round supply, says Grow SA
chief executive officer Mike
As local growers face market
competition from interstate, he
believes the push for change
needs to come from the SA
But he says growers must act
to give consumers the
opportunity to make that
"Growers need to be
encouraged to grow more to
supply the market so that
lettuce doesn't need to be
trucked in from interstate, but
to do that we need to facilitate
a change in thinking," Mr
"Consumers are the ones
who have the power to say
that they don't want to buy
imported produce; that they
want to buy local."
Research conducted by
Grow SA indicated that
consumers would preferentially
purchase SA-grown produce if
they could be guaranteed that
it was locally grown.
"If quality and freshness are
equal, some consumers are
also prepared to pay a marginal
premium for local produce,"
Mr Redmond said.
Growers needed to ensure
their product was clearly South
Australian, and could not be
confused with interstate
Mr Redmond conceded this
was a difficult task, as major
retailers often encouraged
anonymity of produce so that
cheaper lettuces could be
sourced from interstate without
consumers being aware of it.
"This issue is difficult for
growers to deal with, but as
best they can, they need to put
a brand on their product and
let the consumer make the
choice," he said.
"We have to give consumers
the ability to make an
informed decision. And if they
do care about buying local,
then our own growers will
More than half of the lettuce
grown in SA is traditional
iceberg. But a large range of
other lettuces are produced
An increase in consumer
support would enable local
growers to expand their
industr y to supply the market
year-round, and build on
increasing demand for 'fancy'
"There is room for more
hydroponic lettuce production
because the technology is
evolving in that industry and
making it more efficient to
Duopoly limits industry potential
GROW SA commodity group
chairman and Ausveg board
member Romeo Giangregorio
believes the big supermarkets
are hindering the lettuce
industry by limiting branding of
He is operations and
marketing manager for his
Lewiston-based family business
Rainbow Fresh, which produces
salad mix lettuce and herbs for
independent supermarkets and
the restaurant trade.
Mr Giangregorio says that by
limiting branding of products,
the big supermarkets are
limiting the industry's potential.
And without the ability to label
lettuces, growers were hard-
pressed to encourage
consumers to buy local produce.
"With a younger generation
coming through who are
thinking outside the norm, there
is a good opportunity for
growers to come up with new
products to distinguish
themselves from the pack," Mr
"Supermarkets have limited
the amount of branding on the
shelf, which is stifling our
In order to grow our business,
we need to build a strong brand
name, and supermarkets don't
"Marketing is the biggest
value to any business. We are
hindered from developing a
marketing strategy, and that
gives us no incentive to develop
new, innovative products to
drive our industry forward."
The potential threat of
overseas imports was Mr
Giangregorio biggest concern
for the lettuce industry, and he
called on governments to
protect Australian growers.
"We are slowly becoming a
net importer of vegetables in
Australia," he said.
"Their standards are different,
yet we are expected to compete
"Growers are suffering
because of poor market prices,
yet we are importing produce
from overseas. This government
has shown very limited concern
Consumers must drive
Facilitate a change in
Industry expands to grow
all year round
People power encouraged
AT A GLANCE
• OVERSEAS IMPORTS
Growers are suffering because of
poor market prices, but Australia is
importing produce from overseas
and the government has shown
very limited concern.
Supermarkets have limited the
amount of branding on the shelf,
which is stifling the industry.
• FREE TRADE
Free trade is not fair trade because
growers in other countries are not
operating under the same
WHILE Grow SA chief executive Mike Redmond wants more locally-grown lettuce,
he concedes that growers must work hard to create local markets through
branding. SARAH SLEE reports.
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