When sharp business intuition met experience and opportunity, The Produce Mom was born.
Lori Taylor had worked for Indianapolis Fruit Co. Inc. for nine years, the last two as inside sales manager for the large produce distributor. Taylor spoke Spanish, so she was assigned to develop sales with Indiana’s Mexican bodegas.
This was not a full-time job, so she was also assigned to develop business with juice bars and all of the low-volume accounts. If there were accounts that didn’t seem glamorous, they gave them to Taylor. “She’ll make them happy,” was the common knowledge at Indianapolis Fruit.
“I was talking the Mexican bodegas into selling eggplant and fresh juices,” said Taylor. “I had a juice bar using jalapeño peppers.
“Dollar for dollar I sold the least amount of produce per year,” she continued. “So my manager, the director of sales and marketing, laughed when I wanted to be in marketing management. But I marketed myself and shared the story that I’d sold new commodities to niche markets.”
Then she asked her boss, “‘When was the last time you shopped?’ I was the only female at the time and the only one with two small children. I am the target consumer!” she stressed. “I am the person that everyone wants a piece of.”
As soon as she got the job, she quietly admitted to herself, “I’m not qualified for this.”
In her first two months in her new marketing job, she performed the tasks that had been customary for the position. “I really thought my job was at risk” through a soft sales effort. “This was not progressive marketing. There was no tangible return on the marketing dollars and I was a loss to the company.”
Taylor entered a deep, thoughtful process of self-reflection. She didn’t have a marketing degree nor did she possess technical skills to market. “But I did have a consumer’s voice and knowledge and I could use that perspective to benefit the industry.”
Taylor studied many produce industry websites.
Those promoting produce to consumers were written by one of four categories: dieticians, doctors, fitness instructors or farmers.
“Those are all viable and noble roles,” she said. “But the vast majority of consumers can’t relate to them. My perspective was that of a young mom with two kids. But I had experience at the distribution level and I bought from farms in Spanish-speaking regions.”
In November 2011 she explored countless blogs related to the produce field. “They were like Wikipedia. Fact-based and really good blogs” that mostly discussed one commodity.
Then she spent $5.99 with Godaddy.com to buy the URL theproducemom.com.
It wasn’t until January 2012 that she met with the management team to review her efforts. She unveiled her idea to start a consumer blog. “They loved it,” she said, especially the fact that her start-up cost to become The Produce Mom was six dollars.
Today, The Produce Mom is the official blog and consumer brand of Indianapolis Fruit Co., a supplier of fresh fruits and vegetables to retailers in more than 14 midwestern states. The Produce Mom LLC is a subsidiary of Indianapolis Fruit.
In the blog’s first year, there were 170,000 site visits. Now, “there are 100,000 hits a week.” Helping promote The Produce Mom website is Taylor’s lively Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheProduceMom.
According to company information, The Produce Mom provides consumers with information on how to select, store and serve fruits and vegetables through resources such as the “Find Your Favorite” brand elementary school education program, the “Produce Mom Picks” brand initiative in grocery stores and McAlister’s Deli stores in Indiana, an online recipe directory, blog posts, social media and partnerships with fruit and vegetable suppliers, restaurants and grocers.
As The Produce Mom, Taylor has received national recognitions, including the Walt Disney Kids Concern, Woman of Influence by the National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health and Well Dunn Award by the WNBA Indiana Fever.
One supporter of The Produce Mom is Certco Inc., located in Madison, WI. Certco is a grocery wholesaler supplying independent grocery stores located in large parts of Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
David Ryman, Certco’s vice president of sales and marketing, said that Indianapolis Fruit is the produce supplier to Certco customers. “Indianapolis Fruit is our produce department. We put ‘Produce Mom Picks’ in our ads” for consumers. “It’s been a nice additional feature to our ad. It helps stores give customers ideas on what to do with different items. It is a different item each week, with a recipe and ideas. This week it is cocktail tomatoes with a recipe idea for pasta salad.”
Ryman said The Produce Mom input “fits us really well. Mostly there are common items, but there have been some different things she presents that I’d not seen before. For example, last year there was information for fusing jalapeño peppers into water.”
The collaboration with The Produce Mom has increased sales, Ryman said, and increased consumer awareness of produce use.
“The other thing this provides is signage in store, which brings more attention” to produce purchases. Ryman added, “In these days of health-consciousness, it is a nice added value. This has been very successful for us. It has given our customers greater awareness of produce, and it’s brought their customers greater awareness, as well.”