Customers at Prairie U-picks and fruit stands this summer may spot colourful reminders about why they're buying those raspberries, strawberries and other locally grown fruits.
Manitoba's Prairie Fruit Growers Association has launched a new branding program in a joint venture with like-minded grower groups in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
"It's the Taste" is the slogan growers in the three Prairie provinces affiliated with these associations can now opt to use in their marketing, with logos available to affix to signs, pails and baskets, even hats or vehicles.
The brand program was developed through the Canadian Prairie Fruit Federation, which includes the three Prairie grower associations as members. The groups secured Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food (ACAAF) program funding in 2011 through the Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council (MRAC) to do market research into new ways to promote Prairie-grown fruit.
The federation had several goals, including increasing direct-to-consumer sales by building a visual identity for Prairie-grown fruit, and increasing awareness of local fruits' attributes.
"It's a way to give yourselves more visibility," said Anthony Mintenko, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives' fruit crops business development specialist during the PFGA annual general meeting earlier this spring.
Taste, quality, support
The "It's the Taste" slogan of the brand should resonate with consumers, who have told market researchers that's the main reason they buy Prairie-grown fruit.
Surveys done by Blacksheep Strategy, the consulting firm hired, found 39 per cent saying they purchased Prairie-grown fruit primarily for its freshness and flavour.
Others (28 per cent) said their main reason for buying local fruit is to support local growers, while 14 per cent said they buy it because its quality is superior to anything found in stores.
Those surveyed included core customers at U-picks and purchasers at farm gates, as well as fruit industry partners.
The Prairie provinces are taking a cue from Quebec, where a brand program, Les Fraiches du Quebec, was launched in 2009. More than 100 growers adopted that program in the first season.
Waldo Thiessen, secretary for the Altona, Man.-based PFGA, said he's pleased to see the brand program released and anticipates it will benefit fruit growers.
He admitted feeling a bit skeptical when the federation first formed but not now, he said. "I think this is a major accomplishment," he said at the PFGA annual meeting.
Grower members of any of the three participating Prairie associations, including the Prairie Fruit Growers Association in Manitoba, the Saskatchewan Fruit Growers Association and the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association are eligible to participate in the brand program.
-- Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator at Carman, Man. A version of this article appeared in the May 24, 2012 issue.