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Top 10 Produce connects strawberry growers, consumers via mobile bar codes

Top 10 Produce LLC has launched Locale, a strawberry brand that is traceable to the independent farm that grew the produce by scanning on-package bar codes using mobile devices.

Each Locale Salinas Valley strawberry grower has a product label that can be scanned with ShopSavvy, a shopping application for smartphone users, to display a mobile profile controlled by the grower.  The grower profile includes information about the farmer, a map of the location where the product was grown and links to the farmer’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“Top 10 Produce and ShopSavvy have been working behind the scenes for more than two years so that we could hit the market with our product transparency solution at the same time a federal law is requiring bar codes on fresh foods,” said John Bailey, executive director of Top 10 Produce, Salinas, CA.

“We realized early on that the same bar codes that were being required for food safety purposes could serve a dual purpose,” he said. “They could also provide transparent communication and marketing messages between small independent growers and the foodies who support them.”

Top 10 Produce helps small and midsize farms use bar codes to put their farm’s story in front of consumers at the point of sale.

Shoppers are already using cell phones to verify value and authenticity as they make purchase decisions.

Top 10 Produce’s program uses the same bar codes used at the store checkout promote the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food program and to comply with the traceability requirements of the Food Safety Enhancement Act, passed into law in January.

Top 10’s point-of-sale grower-specific marketing can include pictures or video of the actual farmer and their family, as well as detailed information on growing practices.

The ShopSavvy application is available for Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone, as well as Nokia and Windows Phone 7 smartphones. The company claims to have more than 10 million users.

Juicy mobile initiative
While Salinas Valley produce is considered locally grown by San Francisco foodies, the Locale brand is not just about local – it is about transparency, per Top 10 Produce.

Mr. Bailey said that transparent branding means explaining where the produce comes from and how it was grown.

Consumers can become personally acquainted with the real grower and the grower’s family. The actual grower serves as the spokesperson for the brand, as opposed to a cartoon character, as has often been the case with produce brands of the past.

Consumers are increasingly demanding to know where and who the food they buy comes from, and Top 10 Produce is taking a leadership role in providing this information to sustainability-conscious grocery shoppers, per ShopSavvy.

“Though our competitors might let the consumer know where—that is, what brand or what packing shed—their food comes from, they don’t often let the consumer know the real person,” Mr. Bailey said.

“The idea of our brand having ‘the Top 10 strawberry guy’ or the ‘Red Giant’ as a spokesperson is not nearly as appealing to today’s savvy shopper as them getting to know hardworking Martin Rubio – the actual grower who leases the land on which he farms strawberries in the Salinas Valley, and who has a family to support,” he said.

“Because our bar codes provide transparent branding, shoppers who want the truth will seek the truth, and this will enhance their shopping experience—it feels just good to know that you are doing the right thing.”

Grower profiles are displayed via ShopSavvy’s AdOns advertising framework, which enables advertising, coupons, warranty offers, promotions and other information to be delivered when consumers are standing in a retail store with a potential purchase in hand.

AdOns combine location-based and product-specific data to deliver marketing content to users.

When consumers scan a Locale label with ShopSavvy, they will see a profile such as the following example from C & R Farms:

While currently this information is available only for Locale brand strawberries, Top 10 Produce will soon offer this service to any brand that is selling produce supplied by growers licensed by the company.

ShopSavvy will then work with these brands to deliver relevant mobile offers and advertising to shoppers.

“Our competition, like Harvestmark and IBM, are launching thier own smartphone applications to do what ShopSavvvy already does,” Mr. Bailey said. “By enhancing the ShopSavvy application by giving them full access to our data, we are able to reach a significant consumer base quickly. 

“Also, since fresh produce is perishable, there is often the need to move it off of the shelves quickly so that the next harvest can be sold,” he said.

“ShopSavvy’s recent alliance with Groupon will allow us to use the ShopSavvy platform to move our grower’s produce quickly, to avoid any waste.”

Final Take
Dan Butcher, associate editor, Mobile Commerce Daily