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Leveraging Knowledge; A Q&A with Joe Spano

Joe Spano, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Mucci Farms

As an integral piece of the puzzle that has made up Mucci Farms for nearly two decades now, Vice President of Sales & Marketing Joe Spano has helped to collect a number of prestigious industry accolades. Who better to ask what mindset keeps this brand towards the top of the deck, what retail strategies should be hailed, and which of those strategies he hopes never to see? Joe sat down with me to discuss why glass houses are great, so long as you’re growing in them.

Melissa De Leon, Senior EditorMelissa De Leon: What are some of your favorite strategies, or even observations you’ve made, concerning how retailers have promoted greenhouse products online and in-store?

Joe Spano: Our bar is set really high in terms of creating and marketing our offerings. The goal is to look beyond our industry and maintain a brand that can compete with global labels, not just produce.

We’ve found that the best strategies implemented by retail partners, online or in-store, have been built around educating consumers on the benefits of greenhouse-grown product. Some of our partners have sent out film crews to shoot segments in our greenhouses for their own social media campaigns so they can use popular platforms to educate their fans and followers. These video clips have given consumers a peek into our greenhouses, an introduction to our growers, information on where their food comes from, and a look at the growing environment.

In-store, we find that product sampling works very well. As greenhouse farmers, a key selling point is the premium flavor that we can offer as a result of our growing and harvesting processes. We also take part in several in-store demo opportunities, sending our team members along with a chef to give consumers a chance to taste our products with some easy cold-app dishes they can try at home.

"...eye-catching graphics go a long way in creating legitimacy & credibility."

- Joe Spano, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Mucci Farms

 MD: With a number of awards and innovations in presentation and packaging, is there a key pattern you can point to that continues to keep Mucci's place in the category strong?

 JS: The key pattern that we stick to isn’t all that revolutionary: Always think outside the box. For us, a great way to do that is to study packaging trends in every industry. A major focus on a global scale is sustainability in food packaging, so that’s something that is always on our radar as well. We are constantly searching for ways to use the most environmentally friendly packaging, with a strong commitment to use as little as possible while maintaining the integrity of our products. With a talented design team, it also goes without saying that eye-catching graphics go a long way in creating legitimacy and credibility. In today’s digital world, it’s also imperative to create excitement through social media with imagery and videos that get people engaged about what we’re doing. This has also been instrumental in our ability to be awarded, as many judges assess the overall marketing of a product, not just the product or package in isolation.

MD: I definitely noticed a pattern in packaging toward the on-the-go consumer, Veggies to Go™ for example, but what are some other hotspots Mucci is hitting when crafting its produce vehicle?

JS: It isn’t much of a secret that the snacking category has seen an uptick over the past few years, and it continues to rise rapidly. Using our bite-sized items to target the snacking demographic was a no-brainer for us, and we consistently looked for new seeds to identify potential new items to add to the lineup. We’re also committed to finding the most practical packaging that is environmentally friendly and appeals to the on-the-go demographic.

Another main point of emphasis is to market the consistent high quality we are able to produce using sustainable methods in clean growing environments. That allows us to take advantage of a long growing season that is close to home. In addition, we are able to leverage digital media by using our website and social media channels to find creative ways to promote greenhouse education.

"The goal is to look beyond our industry & maintain a brand that can compete with global labels, not just produce." 

Mucci is committed to finding the most practical packaging that is environmentally friendly and appeals to the on-the-go demographic

 MD: What advantages does greenhouse-grown offer retailers and/or foodservice operators, and how do you factor that into your marketing strategy?

JS: The overall advantage provided to all our partners through greenhouse-grown fruits and vegetables is consistency throughout the supply chain, which facilitates premium food safety, sustainability, and product availability. We offer consistent supply with a significantly longer growing season than traditional farming, and with the use of supplemental lighting, we grow several commodities 365 days a year. This is extremely appealing to our retail, wholesale, and foodservice partners because they can deliver the exact same product with the exact same quality to consumers throughout the year. Supplemental lighting also helps us reduce travel miles as we don’t have to rely as much on foreign product, which in turn gets products to shelves quicker, allowing customers to take advantage of the longest possible shelf-life.  
From a marketing perspective, we are able to leverage these advantages in several ways. From labels, to packages, to our website and our social media promotions, we use these direct access points to the consumer to educate them about why greenhouse-grown is the best and most sustainable method of farming.


MD: Finally, what are some how-tos on marketing and presenting greenhouse products in-store and online?

JS: Explain the difference. Unless you live in a farming town, odds are your knowledge about where your fruits and vegetables come from or how they’re grown is limited. While we are seeing an increasing amount of people, particularly in the millennial demographic, starting to care a lot about the specifics of their health and how their food is farmed, it’s still not very common. As a result, when we do in-store demos in particular, our team emphasizes educating consumers and retail staff on the differences between what we do and traditional farming.
Since greenhouse-grown fruits and vegetables are considered “premium” vegetables due to quality, consistency, and cost of production, they are generally offered at a higher price point than field product, making it that much more important to focus on educating consumers. We find that when greenhouse-grown product is presented, whether in-store or online, it’s important to create signage or call-outs to educate consumers on why it’s better for them. We’ve noticed, after speaking to numerous consumers at the ground level in stores, that they are far more intrigued with greenhouse vegetables.  

If there is anything I am taking away from this, it is that execution can weigh in as effectively as the package and product. As Joe and his team continue to put in motion a brand that looks to be not just recognizable, but a household name, I can’t wait to see what innovations he and the entire Mucci Farms team unveil next to continue to connect that trifecta.