The terms producer and grower for agricultural/farm business owners have evolved into direct marketer and maybe more aptly, market researcher. It is no longer enough to produce and sell, it is now imperative to analyze target audiences, define segmented sales strategies and make marketing adjustments as buying trends fluctuate.
Millennials, Generation X’ers and Baby Boomers are out there buying products and expecting a great deal along the way. There are generational differences to be sure, but across these segmented lines, consumers are still looking for healthy alternatives, connecting with local growers and seeking “clean label” products and services.  Clean labeling runs along a widespread definition, but denotes foods, beverages and products free from among other things: artificial ingredients, additives and over-processing.
Market research firm Mintel, Chicago, recently reported in Food Business News that “84 percent of consumers buy “free-from” foods because they desire more natural or less processed foods.” While not all consumers are willing to pay the additional cost of natural or organic products, many view local and free-from products as healthier alternatives.
What does this mean for the direct marketer and farm business owner? Consumers are concerned about where their food and beverages come from and how it is processed. Retailers see the farmer-consumer connection as still going strong and even increasing as consumers question food choices in line with health issues.
What becomes critical then is making the connection and helping others at the point of sales also tell the story of where and how a product comes to market. Some wholesalers and retailers do an excellent job in establishing local identity, while some consumers report they are still puzzled by what is considered “local” and where it is located in a store.
Producers should not assume that their food and beverage products will automatically get labeled or placed to the best sales advantage. Discussing this with buyers and even providing information, photos and social media sites to help sell the story remains important. Consumers are looking for local, natural and free-from (clean labeling) products, but look to direct sellers and grocery stores to make these products visible and easy to select.
It still comes down to telling your story and helping consumers understand the nature of food production and processing in your own individual business. Each generation of consumers is looking at food and beverages through a different lens and each group is making decisions based on their own experiences and interests. Your story remains the important link across buying trends and helps consumers find the types of products they feel will contribute to their overall well-being and budgets.
The above information is presented for educational purposes and should not be substituted for professional business or legal counseling.