BrightFarms CEO Paul Lightfoot Talks Using Local as a Category Driver
IRVINGTON, NY - Sometimes I walk into the grocery store and feel at home. Surrounded by neighbors and members of my community, as we all peruse the familiar names and shapes of the produce I personally stock-pile in my cart, makes Saturday mornings something to look forward to. And on the grower-side of grocery, teams like BrightFarms are taking what I love about grocery shopping—the sense of local community—and using it to start an easy and trustworthy way to shop for fresh fruit and veg.
I chatted with Paul Lightfoot, CEO of BrightFarms, to find out more about how the grower is successfully wielding local as a category driver.
“'Local' can mean different things to different people,” Paul tells me. “Generally, local means consumers have a greater sense of trust in the product and believe it is fresher and more sustainable, which, in our case, is true. Our version of local is telling consumers exactly where our greens are from and ensuring that we're the freshest product on the shelf. Local is certainly one of the biggest demand drivers over the last several years. Bringing people to local produce is what we do, and we feel lucky that markets have been so strong on it.”
BrightFarms has built a reputation around its iconic labels that feature a state map and the proximity of its farms to supermarkets in the area. Typically, its greenhouse farms are only 50-100 miles away, something that is unique in parts of the country that primarily receive salad products from the West Coast.
“No one chooses supermarkets because of their Cheerios,” Paul jokes. “For most supermarket chains, salad is the number one category for produce, and we’re the only local salad most grocery stores have. Typically, supermarkets give us some sort of preferred space with custom signage that emphasizes local and lists how many miles away our farms are. We learned that this speaks to what consumers are looking for.”
And with the emphasis on local, transparency is a must, something BrightFarms values as it seeks to build consumers’ trust. As a result, the company is as transparent as it can be in all endeavors, including labeling, packaging, and constantly communicating with retailers and consumers. Specifically, its pre-packaged salad clam-shells are clear, and the labels list important attributes shoppers are looking for like local, non-GMO, and pesticide-free.
“Consumer response has been great. Our data from across half a million households and 600 stores shows that we’re essentially bringing a better demographic of consumers—the model consumers, if you will, because they are less price-sensitive, more health-conscious, and interested in purchasing more—into the category. We’re aligning with where retailers want to go which is exciting,” Paul says.
He goes on to explain how salads are a code-date category, which means shoppers compare best by dates at shelf. And thanks to BrightFarms emphasis on local, most BrightFarms’ salads have 11-13 days of code left in stores, generally 5 days or more than competitors. According to Paul, the code and the brighter, fresher looking leaves encourage shoppers to purchase more than just one salad, which helps retailers sell more salads in the same shelf space.
For more on the ways those in the produce industry are driving category growth, keep checking back with AndNowUKnow.