Nike has the basketball great Michael Jordan. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter has Italian model Fabio. More recently, actress Jennifer Garner became one of the faces of Capital One. Even if you’ve never used these products, you’re probably familiar with the celebrity spokespeople who have helped to propel the brands forward and increase sales.

Even the fresh produce industry is getting in on the action and leveraging the power of celebrity. In past issues, we’ve discussed the eat brighter! movement, in which the famous Sesame Street characters appear on fruit and vegetable packaging to increase their desirability among those who love the colorful animals.

Last year, the Partnership for a Healthier America created the FNV Initiative, a nonpartisan, nonprofit marketing campaign devoted to getting people to eat more fruits and vegetables. In addition to garnering corporate support from companies like Ocean Spray and Avocados From Mexico, the initiative has partnered with many famous people — from actresses Jessica Alba and Kristen Bell to WWE wrestler John Cena to musician Nick Jonas to basketball player Stephen Curry, and many more.

It’s a smart move for produce companies to look at how to get their marketing message straight to consumers instead of relying on their retail customers. In this year’s State of the Produce Industry research, we see that 63% of growers are selling their edible crop transplants through direct-to-consumer channels like farmers markets and onsite produce markets, while 65% are selling their finished produce that way. Read the full report starting on page 6.

How are you stoking the fire and cultivating demand at the consumer level? Does your marketing plan include having a local celebrity promote your product? Have you thought about establishing a partnership with a local foodie, chef or food blogger to create your own brand advocate? Leslie Halleck chatted with Marketing Director Jim Darroch of Backyard Farms, a hydroponic tomato grower in Maine, to learn more about their partnerships with area chefs, starting on page 10. She also gives some practical advice about how to find and work with your own brand advocates to increase demand and awareness of your produce.

Does your produce have a celebrity endorsement? How do you get the word out to consumers that yours is the brand to choose? You can drop me a line and share your thoughts at

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Twitter: @Karen_GIE