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NEPC Expo keynote presentation to focus on nutritional value of fresh produce

When produce professionals gather at the New England Produce Council’s Annual Produce, Floral & Foodservice Expo to hear Kimberly Gomer present the keynote presentation, they’re going to get an earful about the nutritional value of fresh produce. They will also learn how they can use that knowledge to grow their businesses. The 2018 event is being held on Aug. 22-23 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.Kimberly-2

Gomer is the director of nutrition for the Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami. For the past two decades she has dedicated her life to helping and inspiring her clients to achieve their greatest health potential, including focusing on managing hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and weight loss. Gomer is also known for her compassionate nature, upbeat, energetic personality and drive to go above and beyond for her every client.

She said there is a short game and a long game involved with increasing people’s knowledge of nutrition.

“The short game capitalizes on the current popularity of the healthy/better-for-you movement,” said Gomer. “The long game acknowledges that produce professionals, including retailers, become more healthy lifestyle partners with their customers, with the real goal being their longevity. This translates into them being customers for a long lifetime.”

She suggests that produce professionals be where the consumers are, pointing out they are overwhelmingly on social media today.

“Produce companies must have a robust online presence,” she said. “Consumer purchasing decisions are guided by what they see. They use social media on their cell phones. They use wearable technology to track their workouts. These are places retailers must push into.”

The information, however, has to be genuine. She said the produce industry is already providing consumers with the best products, services and knowledge, and for the right reason: their continued health.

“It is important to show consumers what they can easily do with nutritional information via online recipes, videos, social posts and other methods,” explained Gomer. “The information I will offer at the expo is a great start for produce professionals. They should engage with a certified nutritionist or health professional, and then coordinate with a health-focused food content provider to add healthy content to their marketing efforts.”

She suggests they add health snippets to more of their marketing efforts. An advertisement, for example, could suggest health benefits of seasonal produce, with a link to a current video or recipe featuring the products. Since recipes feature more than one ingredient, consumers will be in their grocery stores with a shopping list. Featuring health snippets on in-store end-caps or pricing signs with brief notations are additional good ideas.

“Boast of the ease with which delicious, healthy food can be made,” she recommends. “Research the nutritional value of the produce and mention the side benefits of the ingredients. And most importantly, repeatedly drive that message home at every possible opportunity.”

The solution, she said, is not a linear progression; it’s a network, or a web. It starts with the health focus.

“Retailers can then work in items from their weekly circulars showcasing seasonal produce, as well as in-store promotions and signage,” she pointed out. “Feature these products prominently across your robust online presence, such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, just for starters. When maintained consistently, this network will go a long way to promote the health focus.”

She also suggests that produce professionals take a look at market leaders to find out who is successful.

“You’ll see they are using these techniques to guide their health-focused initiatives,” she added.

She said that Roche Bros. Supermarkets is a great example. “It provides customers with a variety of excellent produce, is prolific with its communications in print, email and social media, and they are doing it all right.”

Gomer also addressed how increasingly more consumers are reading labels to learn about the nutritional value of the foods they buy, and that’s not always possible in the fresh produce department, especially with bulk items.

“Any fresh produce item a person chooses is healthy,” she said. “Even if the nutritional value of a particular apple variety is not available, they’re still much better off eating it than eating a processed item. This is yet another message that the produce industry, including retailers, can express to consumers.”

She said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” which is attributed to Hippocrates, is the message she wants to convey at the expo.

“I’ll also address other very important health issues, including weight management, diabetes, heart disease and more,” she said.