Start with a bowl of fresh Florida sweet corn, tomato and avocado salsa. Then dig into a feast of garlic shrimp and fried green tomatoes. Finish with a cool slice of Florida blueberry key lime pie. Hungry yet?
That’s exactly what the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is counting on when it features recipes made with Florida commodities. The recipes campaign is part of the “Fresh From Florida” program – the Department’s marketing initiative to promote Florida’s commodities to domestic and global consumer and retail markets.
“We promote easy, quick and healthy recipes using fresh, Florida produce and seafood. Our goal is to encourage consumers to purchase fresh Florida fruits, vegetables and seafood. This helps support Florida’s farmers and fishermen, and ultimately, the state’s economy,” says Donna Watson, supervisor of media for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The department’s certified executive chef, Justin Timineri, develops the recipes for the marketing campaign. As the state’s culinary ambassador, Timineri travels around the state and across the country conducting cooking demonstrations at trade shows, farmers’ markets, festivals and in public schools. The chef also travels internationally promoting Florida’s products. In 2012, he traveled to the Summer Olympics in London to cook for the U.S. athletes and offer them “a taste of Florida.” Timineri says he sees his appointment as an opportunity to help educate consumers about Florida commodities and how to incorporate fresh Florida products into their everyday menus.
“Consumers are asking more and more questions about their food nowadays, so it’s great to be able to talk with them and educate them about where in Florida things are grown and when they’re available. They can go to the market or grocery store and know that these products are available and get the freshest product possible,” Timineri says. “Providing simple, fun and easy recipes that they can make for and with their families is a very rewarding job.”
The department has catalogued more than 300 recipes along with cooking videos and tips at freshfromflorida.com/recipes. Regularly adding new recipes to this list is a part of the marketing efforts that keep consumers engaged in the campaign through digital and social media. The “Fresh From Florida” website also features locator maps for wineries, U-pick farms, and farmers’ markets around the state, as well as, a list of produce and seafood availability by season and a calendar of food-related festivals. Watson says the recipes campaign has been so successful within the state that the Department has expanded the program to markets in other states.
“Most of our efforts have been in-state, but this past year, we targeted Grand Rapids (Michigan) as a test market, partnering with a retailer,” Watson says. “The television campaign was initially scheduled for three weeks. However, due to the success, the retailer extended the television program for an additional two weeks.”
In fact, one of the department’s most successful efforts to grow distribution of products has been the partnership with domestic retail chains to promote Florida commodities through print, television and social media campaigns.
“When we first implemented our television campaign, one of the first items featured was shrimp. One grocery chain basically doubled the pounds of [Florida] shrimp ordered,” says Susan Nardizzi, Director of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Marketing and Development. “They ended up ordering two tons of shrimp. That’s a significant amount.”
Nardizzi says the “Fresh From Florida” campaign is also helping the state’s growers and producers break into emerging global markets. “We implemented a promotion featuring Florida grapefruit juice in South Korea with a restaurant chain. Within four weeks, the juice accounted for 4 percent of the overall products sold. This was a huge success for the restaurant group and for Florida growers.” Nardizzi says. “We are moving further into Asia. We have a relationship with a distributor in Singapore and we’re looking at expanding into Hong Kong with the same distributor in the next year or two. We’re also increasing our efforts in Japan. We are currently conducting a test in about 175 stores. If it goes well, we believe the promotion of Florida produce could increase to as many as 1,000 stores in the next 16 to 18 months.
“Those are just a few examples of what we can accomplish when we put our attention, focus and incentive dollars toward a retail campaign,” she says.