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Navigating the Seismic Shift: A Q&A with Dan’l Mackey Almy

Navigating the Seismic Shift:    A Q&A with Dan’l Mackey Almy

Today’s circumstances have propelled our steadfast industry into the digital world with growers, suppliers, and buyers sheltering in where they can, maintaining no-contact where they can’t, and bringing forward a tech-savviness many of us didn’t know we had. One voice I have always heard advocating to embrace the content offerings of the 21st Century for our industry is Dan’l Mackey Almy. Well-known for her commitment to giving produce operators a face and a voice both digitally and beyond, these are waters I imagined the Founder and CEO of DMA Solutions might know how to navigate.

From how to meet the drastic changes in shopper behaviors and demands to ensuring fresh produce continues to stay top-of-mind for consumers and everything in between, I hope you lean into this Q&A as Dan’l helps to lay out some ways to map the new normal our industry, country, and the world's new face.
 

Melissa De Leon Chavez: The industry is saturated with conversations around COVID-19 impacts on businesses and the trickle-down effects on the consumer. How is DMA helping to turn the tide of the conversation, offering a new way of building value during this time?

Dan’l Mackey Almy: As people spend more and more time at home, our consumer messaging will need to be repositioned for the foreseeable future. In line with what we know to be true at DMA, we’re guiding companies to be “helpful first.” Leading with educational and inspirational content is the best way we can be helpful to people as they grocery shop and cook from home more. Now is not the time to be silent or sales-y, as we have a real opportunity to elevate fresh food in a positive way when people are listening and need it most.

We’ve also been advising companies to stay true to their brand. Companies shouldn’t divert too far from what they’ve been doing, but rather look to add value. For example, if you typically share easy recipe ideas, continue to use that content but reposition it to work for people needing an easy lunch while they work from home.

MDC: DMA is taking a proactive approach to addressing the challenges and perceiving what may come up down the road. In terms of the B2B conversation, how do you see digital impacting the efficiency, flow, and presentation of information?

DMA: While face-to-face communication is certainly a cornerstone of relationship building in this industry, digital communication has become more prevalent throughout the years. That said, there still remains a significant reluctance to fully embracing both digital and virtual communications across the industry. To effectively communicate digitally, focus on being concise and clear, trim down that 50 page PowerPoint and get comfortable with video.

We don’t really have a choice but to have a visual presence right now. And if you’re missing seeing people’s faces like we are at DMA, we’ve certainly found value in tools like Zoom to get a face-to-face feel while on a digital screen.

"Both retailers and suppliers are looking to be a useful source during this time, but it’s time for there to be more collaboration between the two."

- Dan’l Mackey Almy, President and CEO of DMA Solutions

MDC: Dan’l, how has your background in retail given you insights into how to open up the dialogue between retailers and suppliers during this time?

DMA: What I know for sure is that retailers have foot traffic on their side right now. However, people don’t have the time or interest in browsing around the store like they once did. The goal is to get in, get the supplies on the grocery list, and get out.

Suppliers need to provide retail partners with their strategies for navigating this seismic shift in shopping behavior. Brands need to share the sentiment and the responses they’re receiving from the consumers who follow and trust their brand.

MDC: DMA had mentioned that with the hyper-awareness of consumers today, shoppers are pivoting their buying behaviors more towards brands they trust. In times like these, how can suppliers create opportunities to open up a different type of dialogue with retail partners to bring the conversation full-circle?

DMA: Both retailers and suppliers are looking to be a useful source during this time, but it’s time for there to be more collaboration between the two. This has been a missed opportunity in the past and my hope is that in this new day the marketing team of retailers and fresh produce brands will work together to share content and elevate key messages that inspire demand for fresh produce.

Fresh produce is officially in the spotlight and we can’t afford to ignore the opportunity to be helpful and create a lasting impression with shoppers. Instead of working in silos, let’s work together to make sure fresh produce is at the top of every grocery list.

MDC: How can these short-term challenges create long-term solutions and a better way for brands to go to market?

DMA: I truly believe that some of the short-term challenges we’re currently facing will create long-term lessons for the future. We’re really getting back to the basics right now, aren’t we? People are spending more time cooking at home than eating out and seeking simple information like how to wash and store produce. The brands that lean into these short-term challenges are going to win in the long run.

Marketing is easily overlooked. It plays a subservient role to sales in the fresh produce industry and I understand the reality of that. At this moment, right now and going forward, you’re going to see the return on investment in marketing more so than ever in our history. If you’ve been doing the work to build relationships and trust with customers, you’ll see that in uncertain times like these, they’re turning to familiar and trusted brands.


If there is one thing our industry excels at, it’s knowing that Mother Nature could bless us today and challenge us tomorrow. Our willingness to not only meet those challenges, but to thrive in the knowledge that the future will yield yet more surprises is how fresh produce members remain steadfast in unpredictable waters. May this storm soon pass, leaving us stronger and better than we were before.