Q&A: The Produce Moms® Founder Lori Taylor Dishes on the Impact of COVID-19
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - You may think that The Produce Moms® Founder Lori Taylor had her hands full with just her fresh produce communications platform, but you would be missing a few essential parts to that storyline. As the impact of COVID-19 has set into all our communities, we have experienced the shift in engagement and business not only on a group level but on an individual level as well—including Lori, who now takes up the reins as a 6th grade and 4th grade homeschool educator for her children due to concerns in the community. Her plate has runneth over—in good ways and challenging ways. Lori took a minute from the craziness of the day to talk shop with us, as a fresh produce advocate, a mother, and a business owner on how the landscape of fresh produce is changing for her in this Q&A.
Jordan Okumura: How has today's health crisis impacted the role that you see yourself playing in increasing fresh produce consumption?
Lori Taylor: Now more than ever, retailers are compelled to find ways to keep themselves and consumers healthy–fruits and vegetables are at the top of that list of solutions! We know there has been a spike in produce sales as a result of this. Inbound organic traffic to content platforms focused on fresh produce and wellness will continue to spike as well. The Produce Moms recorded our all-time record of unique weekly visitors to our website the week of March 15, and we are on pace to beat last week’s record this week, the week of March 22.
As a media and education brand that’s fully-focused on fresh produce, The Produce Moms has a responsibility to serve as a conduit of information to consumers, retailers, and operators in the supply chain.
JO: From your seat in the trade, how are consumers’ food consumption behaviors changing?
LT: Because of COVID-19, consumers are grocery shopping and cooking at home in a way that our industry has never before experienced—and a catalyst for how we will communicate going forward. You will see schools start to implement online formats as part of standard operating procedures, and grocery stores and foodservice making significant improvements in their direct-to-consumer distribution and communication. In addition to recipe inspiration, consumers and supply chain stakeholders need to educate folks on how to select fresh produce, how to store it at home, and how to prep it. Fact-based education earns consumer trust, and The Produce Moms has been providing that for the past decade and will continue to do so even more. Much of this education has been done through collaboration with the thought leadership and stakeholders from within our industry. Our blog and podcast are great examples of the evolution of our platform as an educational tool for consumers and a springboard for the industry.
JO: We are all consumers first, then fresh produce industry trade members—if not both simultaneously. How does a unique, digital, online platform help cut through the noise and bring more value to both the trade and the consumer?
LT: The value of a unique digital platform exists and elevates every day, but it’s never been more valuable than right now! Many of our modes of communication and connection have been halted as a response to COVID-19 including trade and consumer-facing events and dining out is diminishing.
Now is the time for brands to lean in to direct-to-consumer digital marketing. COVID-19 has provided a unique opportunity that we have never seen before in our lifetimes to capture the end consumer’s attention, loyalty, and trust. Whether the digital conversation flows from B2B or B2C, the time is now to get on board.
JO: How do you see online and digital platforms creating more dialogue between the buy-side and the supply-side?
LT: It’s an exchange of expertise and understanding. Digital platforms foster two-way communication. Brands that have invested in building consumer databases, trade-facing platforms, and ongoing digital content are at an advantage right now. The adage “It’s never too late to start!” certainly applies here as well.
JO: How can we elevate the trade conversation around current and future challenges like the ones we are experiencing today?
LT: A lot of our commodities are best understood by chefs, not home cooks. As foodservice and retail remain in flux, what measures are in place to support growers with commodities that are more in demand at foodservice? How are we helping these growers place product at retail, and most importantly, how are we creating that consumer excitement and understanding of the products? I believe once again the answer is digital content creation plus communications. The produce industry has always been the providers of the world’s healthiest and most flavorful foods. Now, we are the providers of the most important and highest part of consumer’s day: we can bring your family joy, nourishment, and fun—just through mealtimes.
There is no time like the present to engage in the conversation at hand in new and refreshing ways. And as we know, we are all in this together.