Back in 1927, the fresh produce industry was about to take an early step toward branding. Of course, branding had been around ever since some enterprising Neanderthal decided to claim rights to a tool he’d made with by scratching his unique mark on it.
And these days, most everything gets branded, from cattle to cars, soap to cereal – and with the advent of social media, even ourselves.
Brand, like a trademark, is not only a symbol of a company but “a consistent pledge” from that company to its customers, a “bridge to a relationship” with them that associates that brand with “only one origin or source,” according to Robert Payne, a partner at intellectual property firm LaRiviere, Grubman & Payne, LLP of Montery, CA (quoted this month in Western Grower & Shipper magazine).
Oddly enough, however, most fresh produce remains unbranded. But not vegetables and fruit grown by D’Arrigo Bros. Company, of California, pioneers in produce branding.
Back in 1920, two Sicilian immigrant brothers discovered the fertile land of central California and thought it would be perfect for growing broccoli. It wasn’t long before their 28-acre crop was almost ready for harvest. But who would buy it? California was still in its start-up phase, so the two looked East, where they knew they could sell that much – and a whole lot more. So Stefano D’Arrigo filled a railroad car with broccoli and shipped it to Boston. Eight days later, brother Andrea unloaded the crop – still fresh after 2,800 miles – and sold it at a profit.
That was the way it would go. One brother grew the broccoli in California and the other sold it in Boston, along with an ever-increasing variety of other fresh vegetables. As competitors caught on, it soon became necessary for the D’Arrigos to set their produce apart. Thus was born the Andy Boy brand, a highly visible logo with pink lettering and a picture of Stefano’s then 3-year-old son Andy on it. Their brand still leads the way today, emblazoned on bright pink skirt ties that dress their broccoli rabe for sale.
“Shoppers have told me that Andy Boy products really stand out in the produce section,” says David Hinkle, Southwest sales manager for Package Containers, Inc., the Canby, OR company that makes the skirt ties. “The pink tie attracts people’s attention and invites them to buy.”
Frank Ratto, VP of marketing for Ratto Bros., Inc., whose company farms more than a thousand acres of herbs, fruits and vegetables in the Central Valley, likens branding agricultural products with twist ties to a handshake. “They’re a stand-in for you,” he says. “They give your product an identity. They communicate brand value -- value in the Ratto Bros. name, the knowledge that people get fresh and tasty vegetables every time.“
“We brand 23 out of 45 products" with PCI's Identi-Ties®, he says, counting them off one by one – “from basil to watercress. They’re an important tool in the presentation of our products -- especially in northern California, where our brand means something.”
“The produce department is one of the most demanding sections in a grocery store,” notes Package Containers’ Hinkle. “Clerks are always having to straighten up the displays after people pick through the produce. I’ve noticed, however, that there’s less of that with Ratto Bros. produce,” because their branded presentation works so well.
It may sound amazing that something as simple as a branded twist tie is so effective at differentiating one produce brand from another (or from unbranded produce), but it does. Just ask D’Arrigo Bros. Company, of California and Ratto Bros., as both third-generation companies extend the invitation for consumers to choose their branded produce, well into the 21st century.
TakeAway: Communicate your product’s uniqueness with a brand that’s tangibly and authentically “you.” It can make a real difference – right away and way down the road, too.
Content © by Brian E. Faulkner
Tags: D’Arrigo Bros. Company, Andy Boy brand, Package Containers, Inc., Ratto Bros., Inc., Western Grower & Shipper, LaRiviere, Grubman & Payne, LLP
About Brian Faulkner:
> blogs to establish you as the thought leader / authority in your business category
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Brian also is a three-time Emmy award-winning Public Television writer and narrator of over 100 segments for UNC-TV’s popular "Our State" magazine series, on the air since 2003.