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Even as it evolves, Jersey Fresh stays true to its roots

Change for the sake of change rarely yields positive outcomes. This is especially true for an institution with as much history as the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Jersey Fresh branding and promotional program.

However, societal changes mean that, in addition to leaning on strategies that have made the brand successful for more than 30 years, we need to address a world where 140 characters can have as much impact as a major ad buy. The balance between proven, effective media strategies and the latest social media tools can be a tough one to strike.

This year, consumers will continue to hear radio spots, see television ads and come across bus wraps and point-of-purchase displays advertising the Jersey Fresh products that are in season, just as produce buyers will notice the program’s presence in trade publications including The Produce News, and our participation in regional, national and international trade shows.

07-NJ-jersey-fresh-signJersey Fresh is the agriculture department’s branding and promotional program. Additionally, we’re investing significant resources in the continued build-out of our burgeoning social media and online presence. The groundwork that’s been laid in this area over the past several years has been nothing short of incredible, and will only be enhanced this year by new contests and promotions, more Jersey Fresh recipe videos and other consumer engagement features, and integrated web advertising to capture an audience that increasingly consumes media online.

Perhaps most exciting, work is under way on a complete redo of the Jersey Fresh website and the development of a Jersey Fresh mobile app. When complete, both will serve as an at-the-fingertips resource not only for consumers, but also produce buyers interested in connecting with growers enrolled in the Jersey Fresh program.

Another example is the Jersey Fresh weekly availability report, a staple for distributors, grocery retailers, consumers and restaurateurs sourcing Jersey Fresh products throughout the growing season. If you are on our email list, you may have noticed that the report has gotten a facelift. If not, visit http://jerseyfresh.nj.gov/find/JFAvailReport.pdf. The content remains unparalleled, a testament to the work of staff who talk with growers across the state every day to assess growing conditions and product availability.

How about food safety and Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) preparedness, an increasingly important issue for produce buyers at all levels?

Elsewhere in this edition of The Produce News, you’ll hear from Chris Kleinguenther, the bureau chief for the Bureau of Commodity Inspection and Grading within the Division, who, working alongside extension experts at Rutgers University, with resources provided by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the FDA, has embarked on a multi-year grower education program to coincide with the roll-out of FSMA.

This is an area where we’ve always excelled, thanks in no small part to our longstanding third-party audit work, and this latest initiative will only serve to further position New Jersey’s fruit and vegetable producers at the forefront in meeting buyers’ expectations for food safety compliance.

At the end of the day, the produce business is about relationships. Already, since starting in this position, I’ve spent countless hours behind the wheel meeting with produce buyers, attending industry trade shows and interacting with other food industry professionals to further enhance the integration of the Jersey Fresh brand. We’ll continue to identify opportunities for collaboration wherever we can, whether for enhanced Jersey Fresh point-of-purchase promotions at grocery stores, the expansion of the Made with Jersey Fresh product line or the inclusion of Jersey Fresh products on restaurant menus.

These are just some examples of the work under way at the department. As the growing season continues to ramp up, so too will our promotional efforts.

New Jersey has a brand that stands tall on the shoulders of history and the many wonderful producers throughout the state. A lot riding is on this, but every season, New Jersey has a great head start with a brand that is as easy to believe in as Jersey Fresh.

Tom Beaver is the director of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Division of Marketing and Development.