Cindy Jewell has started her own marketing business, Jewell Marketing, after 15 years with Watsonville-based California Giant Berry Farms Inc. Alongside her passion for marketing, her love for berries, making jam and gardening are what make iTrade thrilled to have her as a guest blogger.

Any positive development in the COVID-19 economy keeps us looking forward to better days ahead.  I am proud to be a member of the produce industry during this time, especially as I witness so many new collaborations and partnerships being established to combat the biggest global challenge we have ever faced. 

Retail and foodservice operations are banding together to help feed people throughout the country.  Competitors are joining forces to keep healthy perishables in consumer shopping carts.  Industry associations are working together around the clock to help provide financial relief.  All of these positive connections and actions help create ‘a new normal’ for our industry. What’s also interesting about these types of collaboration and connection is that they also build more resilient supply chains that will benefit everyone not just as we get through this crisis, but over the long-term as well. 

I witnessed more of these positive moments this week--moments that connect and bring industry members together. For example, the Strawberry and Blueberry Commodity Groups have quickly pivoted and brought their industries together to launch digital marketing campaigns directed at consumers, showcasing snacking recipes and nutritional benefits.  Their collective advertising is digital-focused as they launch app-based coupons aimed at driving nationwide fresh berries demand during peak volume periods. For the first time in years, competitors in the berry industry are collaborating on what is best for the industry and the consumer first, and promoting their own brands is secondary.  This collaboration is a valuable tool for the retail community as well, as it receives an effectively turn-key advertising program to boost store sales.

The shutdown of trade show marketing has also inspired organizations to think differently about how   they can help those less fortunate. Recently, when the United Fresh Produce Association shifted their trade show to a virtual show, they offered pre-registrants the opportunity to have their dollars make a positive difference.  More than 20 companies rose to the occasion and donated what would have been their show refunds to the United Fresh Start Foundation so fresh produce could be donated to communities in need.

Technology partners are also getting into the act. Last week, iTradeNetwork launched a new service, iTradeMarketplace, that has already received a lot of traction, including a partnership with the Produce Marketing Association. It promises to be a convenient, user-friendly tool for buying, selling, and connecting to new partners both now and long after we get through this crisis. The platform is open to any company involved in the food and beverage supply chain--buyers, suppliers, logistics providers, packaging companies, regardless of whether they’re iTrade customers or not--to discover, purchase, sell, and provide logistics options or any other related materials, even PPE.

This new marketplace quickly takes users through the steps to enter, join and connect with other members. If a match is made, iTrade quickly facilitates trading over their trusted platform that 8,000+ customers already use.  For industry members not currently on iTrade, this serves as the perfect introduction to the system and a free way to learn how to benefit from their services today and in the future. The more than 200 companies currently signed up will ultimately help shape iTradeMarketplace’s future, which is exciting to consider at a time like this.  It can quickly become an everyday tool to capitalize on supply demand shifts, ways to keep buyers and sellers connected and to ultimately reduce food waste. 

I remain optimistic as we slowly emerge from this crisis that our new normal will be rich with new solutions to work together in this industry and stay connected.  For years there has been discussion about how we can increase consumption of fresh produce in the US. Perhaps when the dust settles, we will realize these new tools we used during a crisis can be part of our future success in achieving that goal.  The new friendships and alignments formed will clearly continue. Additionally, these new tools, whether it’s the new iTradeMarketplace, virtual trade shows or companies working together supplying food banks when in need, continue to demonstrate innovation, bring us together, and build stronger, more resilient supply chains.