For years, the Italian fresh produce supply chain has had to contend with falling consumption. As revealed by Monitor Ortofrutta, the annual study published by our strategic marketing research group Agroter, since 2006 fresh fruit and vegetable sales in the country have dipped by 18 per cent, with fresh fruit sales falling by 7 per cent in the last five years alone. Every so often there are positive signs, but the situation remains critical.
How to change the situation? How can we work out how much a consumer is willing to spend in return for a quality product? To answer these questions, we worked with Rome-based company BrainSigns to apply the concept of ‘brainmarketing’ to fruit and veg for the first time. The results were unveiled by Agroter’s managing director Roberto Della Casa last month in Milan, at an event to coincide with the official launch of Speciale Frutta&Verdura. This annual sector guide, published by Italiafruit News and Mark Up, considers the challenges of the digital age, highlighting opportunities presented by big data, a survey of the potential of e-commerce, a comparison of baby boomers and millennials, and case studies illustrating the best in digital marketing.
So what is brainmarketing? Conducted using the most advanced technology, the process involves eyetracking and the tracking of brain activity – known as electoencephalography – in order to gauge emotions, visual impact, cognitive engagement and direction of gaze. “Positioning, visual cues, colours; these are decisive factors that can attract the consumer’s attention and involve them more or less completely,” explains Della Casa who also edits Speciale Frutta&Verdura and was a driving force behind this cutting-edge investigation.
“All of these are characteristics in which fruit and vegetables excel, both in terms of quantity and quality,” he continues. “Using brainmarketing, it’s possible to quantify how many times the consumer looks at a product and this has several possible uses, such a comparison between brands, products, merchandising and graphics. With brainmarketing, you can analyse the consumer’s emotional response at the point of purchase and in particular situations inside a store or specific department. The brainmarketing techniques therefore allow you to identify critical issues to do with the consumer experience and suggest specific areas for improvement. All of it can be done ‘in the field’, taking into account the products’ instinctive, emotional and non-verbal effect on the consumer.”
The project’s initial results suggest a clear link between product and producer is important. What’s more, consumers appear more interested in products if they are sold alongside images of the grower, or if the grower is there in the store. This is just one way in which produce can change from a basic product, where price is the decisive factor in its sale, to a high-quality one where excellent taste overshadows the price.