SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A state agency looks toward building on
last year’s success in promoting Illinois-grown products with an expanded
campaign in 2014.
For the second straight year, the Illinois Department of
Agriculture was awarded a Specialty Crop Block Grant from the U.S. Department of
Jennifer Tirey, state bureau chief of the marketing and
promotions, said part of the funding from last year’s grant was used to provide
free marketing materials through the Illinois Where Fresh Is program for 115
grocery stores and 90 farmers markets.
“They could put these six-foot banners at their market or
their grocery store,” she said.
“We were also able to partner with CBS 2 TV in Chicago, and
they created three different commercials about the Illinois Where Fresh Is
program encouraging consumers to look for strawberries, blueberries, peaches,
sweet corn and watermelon.”
An Illinois Where Fresh Is website also was created with
maps indicating the locations of the participating grocery stores and farmers
markets where products grown in Illinois are available.
“We were really lucky to receive money again this year for
phase two which allowed us to get 75 more grocery stores, 25 additional farmers
markets and something new in 25 farm stands,” Tirey said.
“We’ve been working the last month or two to recruit new
markets, grocery stores and farm stands. They will get the banners like the
people got last year to put up at their grocery stores and markets.”
The marketing bureau also wanted to keep those involved in
last year’s first phase of the program engaged and provide those same
“So we created the Buy Illinois Fruits and Vegetables
Challenge where they will get signage specifically about that, and we’re
encouraging consumers to dedicate $10 of their existing grocery store budget to
buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown in Illinois,” Tirey said.
While the specialty crop grant is for the promotion of
fruits and vegetables, these efforts dovetail into meeting the department’s
mission to promote all products produced in Illinois.
“If every household in Illinois dedicates just $10, and
that’s not new money they just shift their spending, on Illinois-made products
that will reinvest $47 million a week into the Illinois economy — over $2.4
billion annually,” Tirey said.
“It is real numbers, and right now we can’t ask people to
spend more of their hard-earned money because it continues to dwindle, but to
spend what they’re already spending and just look for Illinois-made would be
Efforts to promote Illinois products began two years ago
when Ag Director Bob Flider kicked off the Buy Illinois Challenge and unveiled
the department’s newly designed Illinois Product logo.
These series of promotional efforts have been well received
and is helping bolster the state’s products.
“We surveyed our participants in the first phase of Where
Illinois Fresh Is program, and some of the farmers market vendors and grocery
stores saw up to a 50 percent increase in sales,” Tirey said.
“Some of them had a 5 to 10 percent increase, and others
were up 50 (percent). They all saw the benefit and the value of it, and honestly
it’s going to take a little while to get it off the ground.
“So we’re hoping that not only are we reengaging who we
worked with last year, but also adding numbers and also adding the number of
places we’re advertising this summer to truly try to cover every pocket of the
state and so we’re building momentum.”
The marketing bureau also is working with grocery store
chains on not only the Illinois Where Fresh Is programs, but the Illinois
Products logo that includes all food processed in Illinois.
“They’re working to get shelf talkers and signage so
consumers can easily find those Illinois made products in the stores,” Tirey
The efforts have been well received by grocery stores as
they see the value in promoting local products.
“They’re always looking for ways to increase. For example, I
got an email from a County Market executive who wants to start doing a food demo
in their grocery stores to highlight Illinois products. They come to us to help
connect with those Illinois food companies that may not be in their store,”
The department hosted a successful two-day Illinois Products
Expo in early March at the state fairgrounds.
“Not only did we do a consumer show where the public came
in, we also did a buyers’ show before it opened for the public and some of these
buyers want to put these items in their stores across the state,” Tirey
“So it’s not just what happens over that two-day time period
at the expo. It’s happening months after the fact where they’re making
connections and getting their products on shelves, and its long-term effects
that keeps these businesses growing. That’s what we want to do.”