Published on February 22, 2019, at 4:50 p.m.
by Michaela McLean
If you thought “going organic” was a passing food fad, think again. According to Statistica, in 2016, global sales of organic foods topped $90 billion, while a recent survey found that 44 percent of Americans actively try to incorporate organic foods in their diet.
As an organic brand PR practitioner, what are the strongest messages to reach the unaware public? Since the organic industry is full of startups captained by uber-creative people passionate about their health, their food and saving the environment, PR practitioners can also take a creative and passionate (while factually legitimate) approach. The organic industry contains several industry-wide talking points that can be adapted into messaging to maintain brand loyalists and win over new converts for not only individual brands, but the industry as a whole.
Uncle Matt’s Organic, an organic juice business located in Central Florida, understands firsthand how to promote a brand that is pure, organic and simple in its mission. With a long family history of growing citrus in Central Florida, Uncle Matt’s Organic is now the category captain in organic orange juice. Company representatives recently shared insider tips on three messages it relies on to make disciples of its #1 best-selling organic orange juice.
1. Benefits, benefits, benefits
Susan McLean, marketing director for Uncle Matt’s Organic, said, “Organic foods are often perceived as being inferior in quality or taste due to the public perception that food must be ‘beautiful’ or perfect without blemishes to be delicious. That is not the case. Organic foods are more nutrient-dense and often taste better than their conventional counterparts.”
By promoting the overall health benefits through all communication and marketing channels, public relations practitioners must be committed to striking down the myths that organic foods are not worth the price and do not possess added benefits over conventional products. An industry-wide key message to publicize is that organic products provide key nutrients without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers in the growing process.
From protecting future generations from cancer-causing pesticides in food to supporting small farmers and promoting biodiversity, Uncle Matt’s Organic uses its growing philosophy to promote the long-term advantages of offering consumers more nutritious, GMO-free (genetically modified organisms) and hormone-free products.
“It is not what you are getting; it is what you are not getting,” said Annemarie McLean, former marketing communications specialist for Uncle Matt’s Organic. “A good practice for PR practitioners would be to research and compile the latest peer-reviewed and published research that reinforces the health benefits of consuming organic foods. Synthesizing these findings into brand messaging further supports product credibility and helps influence buyer perception as to why they should spend more for organic.”
2. Food grown the way nature intended
Consumers deserve to know where their food comes from and how it was grown. Uncle Matt’s Organic advertises its sustainable farming practices so consumers know its products are free of GMOs and synthetic pesticide residue. Ben McLean, head of research at Uncle Matt’s Organic, explained that sustainable farming is an important practice organic food publicists should share to facilitate consumers making wise and informed choices when purchasing food products and supporting the custom in which the product was grown.
“Sustainable farming practices are beneficial to everyone because they preserve valuable, natural resources and can be repeated and sustained over a long period of time. For example, Uncle Matt’s Organic recycles fruit and vegetable wastes into composts and uses that as a source of soil fertility. The process is circular in nature,” said Ben McLean.
A potential consumer would buy a product based on the fact that the company incorporated these natural practices into its food production processes. When they purchase an organic product, they are a supporting more than just a farming business. They are supporting the practice of sustaining natural resources rather than consuming them.
“We have also proven that organic farmers are sustainable — both in growing practices and in supporting family farms — and organic farming can be a strong business model while contributing to the overall health and awareness concerning nutrition in the United States,” stated Susan McLean.
These “give-back” and “earth-friendly” practices can play into major shifts in consumer perception and behavior, and publicists in the organic brand arena should pay attention to them.
3. Be the real deal
The USDA organic seal guarantees that no pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers were used in the growing process of an organic product. “A PR practitioner promoting organic brands should consider this messaging integral in differentiating organic brands versus conventional,” noted Annemarie McLean.
Ben McLean also asserted that people should pay attention to a product with the USDA seal because “the product has been grown under rigorous standards to comply under federal law for the production of the organic food product. The seal equals integrity.”
Therefore, it is important to publicize the USDA seal on organic products so that consumers become more educated and aware of what the product inside truly contains. Also, bringing awareness to the seal’s “stamp of approval” will act synergistically with other brand promises to heighten consumer awareness and positively affect a consumer’s perception of the brand the PR practitioner is advocating.
Alongside physical proof of organic legitimacy, Susan McLean shared that the most important messaging in promoting an organic brand is “authenticity, transparency and consistency.” For example, Uncle Matt’s Organic authenticity is tailored through its brand messaging of family health, claiming that it is “not your average citrus company.”
Uncle Matt is the real-life uncle to 10 nieces and nephews and is passionate about the future of a healthy generation. The company is built upon fourth-generation Florida citrus farmers who transitioned into the organic sphere 20 years ago.
PR professionals should creatively tailor their specific messages based on their brands to discover their own authenticity, transparency and consistency. Incorporating these three no-fail messages position a practitioner to effectively win over new converts for the organic industry as a whole.
Editor’s Note: Some of the sources quoted in the article have personal connections to the author.