A virtual vegetable garden builds consumer connection for produce brands

As we know there is a growing trend in people wanting to know where their food is coming from. Likewise we are seeing more and more people establishing vegie patches in their back yards in urban environments. But for those without the land or the time, Abbey Parks farm in the UK is leveraging this growing food trend fully with their i-Grow offering. Abbey Parks are leasing allotments of their farm to consumers all around the UK and growing the vegetables for them.

For £125 you can rent a six square metre allotment for a year and plant six rows of herbs and vegetables. It is estimated that this will provide a minimum of five boxes of produce from winter to summer, sent by next-day-delivery to your home. The variety of crops available include sugar beets, asparagus, potatoes, onions and more. While the experience for many is simply a virtual one until the veggie box arrives, there is also the opportunity for individuals to visit their lot, pick their produce and if really keen do some weeding. It is still early days for Abbey Park’s i-Grow, but through word of mouth they have enticed 38 individuals to lease lots.

In East Sussex, a related concept in the UK that has been in operation for four years is an orchard where cherry trees can be rented, and 1,500 people have taken up the opportunity. For an investment of £42.50, individuals can anticipate about 10-20kg of cherries, depending on the season. Better still you get to picnic under your tree when it is in full blossom and enjoy harvesting its fruit over a 10 day period during the picking season.

What is interesting from a brand management perspective is that for those food producers wishing to go to the market with a branded product (versus generic fruit) the above schemes provide a powerful vehicle for creating an army of brand advocates. Individuals who are emotionally connected to the fruit being produced and love telling others about it. Imagine back in the office on Monday morning in response to the old …’what did you do on the weekend?’

‘”Well actually I went to the stunning (xyz orchard) to harvest MY cherry tree. It was a fantastic day out, lots of fun and the cherries themselves a total indulgence. My (xyz orchard) cherries are superb and you will find some in the kitchen for you to enjoy during the day.”

Next time that person’s work colleague is looking for cherries which brand will they be attracted to? The opportunity is far greater from a brand perspective than simply the revenue from the trees or lots leased out. Yes, and of course the concept would work equally well if the fruits in question were grapes and the end result was some great wine. In fact in that context I may end up a rather large leasee myself!

Peter Singline
Brand Scientist

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