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Driscoll's: Crossing the Pond

Wherever you are reading this, whatever team you are a part of, are you so fulfilled that you would completely change your life for this work? Bring your family with you to the opposite end of the world to answer that company’s call?

This is what Wyard Stomp recently did. His love for the company he works for was enough for Wyard to take a 5,000-plus mile leap of faith, family in tow, from his home in The Netherlands to help a California-based innovator continue to stay ahead of the curve.

The company worth this leap is Driscoll’s.

“I brought my family here because this is a very, very special company to work for,” he shares with me as I try to wrap my head around the changes Wyard has made. The new Vice President of Sales and Marketing is six years into his career with the company, indeed, with fresh produce, and his faith is invigorating to say the least. “It isn’t just a good company; it has the right intentions. Not a lot of people know that about Driscoll’s—the real, intrinsic value of the company. But, we very much intend to make that more known to consumers and beyond.”

Wyard Stomp,  VP of Sales & Marketing, Driscoll’sWyard’s words are a foreshadowing of the strategy he is bringing to this new role. When I ask him how merchandising plays into the go-to-market strategy of a berry powerhouse like Driscoll’s, Wyard explains that Mother Nature has created a product to appeal and attract people to eat it. This, he says, is something Driscoll’s must accomplish at the store level.

“You have the opportunity to make berries a destination for consumers,” he shares. “If we do our job correctly, it will attract everyone to buy more. Merchandising is critical in getting them to come back, and if we fail at that point, it is all for nothing.”

To understand the key role merchandising plays, Wyard takes me back to the seed—literally and figuratively—of the company’s operations.

“At the core of everything we do is the life of fresh produce. The quality of our offerings, the investment of our genetic program; all we do to bring our berries to the marketplace is ultimately to bring them to the consumer. The journey is completed by our merchandising strategy,” the executive shares.

The concept is something Wyard has carried with him across industries, having joined Driscoll’s European operations in 2012 after working with a dairy cooperative. You might balk, but Wyard will be the first to tell you that the two are more alike than you think.

“Creating an experience is building a bigger meaning than its intrinsic value.”

— Wyard Stomp

“It was a very fresh environment, and my position was with a cooperative owned by farmers,” he explains, and the dots I previously pictured begin to connect. “The dairy industry has to have very active strategies to drive consumption and growth, something I have brought a lot of to this industry. Scarcity of resources, offering a solution for healthy, tasteful products...bringing both worlds together is really exciting for me.”

And, making the leap Stateside means that the dairy and berry worlds aren’t the only things Wyard is bringing together, but cultures, too. He tells me that different countries have different approaches to the “berry patch,” but merchandising across the globe is way more experimental.

While I, understandably, can’t ask him to show me the entirety of his playbook, he is more than happy to share with me one of the most important strategies taking effect. Something suppliers and retail partners can embody together, he says, is the building of an experience for consumers.

“Creating an experience is building a bigger meaning than its intrinsic value,” he says.

“We have a uniquely wonderful, rare product in that it is healthy and tastes good. So, how do we offer an experience shoppers want to come back to? We have an opportunity to drive excitement around that to the consumer. Add that to executing the product well on the store floor—if it’s cold and has premium placement—and the experience is hard to resist.”

This one statement touches on some of the integral tools merchandising presents to Driscoll’s and its retail partners. Wyard explains that there are a number of stages of execution within the store, starting with basic questions like, “Where should you put the berries? How do they look? And was the cold chain integrity maintained all the way through the supply chain until the product made it into the shopping cart?”

“End-of-the-line positioning, for example, can be key because, let’s face it, our product is better than chocolate,” Wyard laughs. “Help incentivize the consumer to understand why it’s a good buy, bring ideas to them, and provide them with solutions. That’s where merchandising takes it to the next level, but you can’t get there if you don’t have the basics.”

“As far as I’m concerned, we are just at the beginning of where berries can be. Driscoll’s is a pioneer of that, which I am excited to be a part of.”

— Wyard Stomp

A hot tip Wyard observed in Europe, where many a food trend has taken root, was the remarkable boost solid signage can present.

“This,” he says, “is so important. Conversion increases rapidly with good signage. You can play with that by putting berries in different positions in store, increase consumption through different moments, and uplift your sales by encouraging cross-merchandising.”

One tech-savvy way Driscoll’s has done this is by teaming up with a retailer to implement digital signage in select markets. These signs not only provide that interactive experience Wyard advised, but can also update throughout the day to make the sign relevant to the meal consumers might be shopping for.

“This is in line with creating an experience and making things more special. We talk about evoking emotions and making ordinary moments special for people every day to create excitement on a store level. You can even create an experience that will elevate the perception of the store itself. Fresh produce is really driving this, and berries take it to the next level with a truly delightful product,” Wyard shares.

As for the digital movement, and implementing it in the shopping experience, Wyard says it is perfect for Driscoll’s desire to create a personal connection.

“Technology can help us do that,” he emphasizes. “We have seen great results with this as we have tested it with one of our retail partners and would love to take it to the next level.”

That next level seems to be exactly where Wyard and his berry-powered team are aiming. And after more than a decade of freshening up essential products for the consumer eye across two industries, and turning his own life upside down for the company he loves, I’m willing to take his word for it.

“The excitement in berries, for me, is chasing the opportunity. I see a world of possibility to increase berry consumption in the U.S., and then the grander world. Dairy has been a significant and sophisticated structure to create value out of milk, and berries have the capacity to continue to bring value as well. As far as I’m concerned, we are just at the beginning of where berries can be. Driscoll’s is a pioneer of that, which I am excited to be a part of.”

With a brand-wide promise to always move the needle, Wyard assures me that is what he and his team will continue to do.