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Growers Hort Innovation is continuing to work hard for you

Hort Innovation is continuing to work hard for you

In these unusual times under the pressures of the global COVID-19 situation, Hort Innovation wants to keep you updated on how our work as Australian horticulture’s research and development corporation has been continuing. Things may be a little different, but levies continue to be invested, our staff continue to be available, and we want you to know: we’re in this together. Read on to learn more about some of the changes that are allowing us to keep our eye on the big priorities for the future of horticulture, while also paying attention to the needs of our growers and the wider hort sector as we navigate our way through COVID-19.

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Our open letter to you

In May 2020, Hort Innovation penned this open letter to the horticulture sector, giving a brief overview of the actions the company is taking to move with the times in protecting levy investments, realigning activities, and seizing new opportunities. These actions are explored in more detail below.

 

We’re working remotely and keen to stay in touch

Hort Innovation’s office-based staff in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are currently working from home, but are just as contactable as ever.

 

We’re working with the government and other relevant bodies

Hort Innovation maintains open lines of communication with the federal and state governments, industry representative bodies and other relevant organisations. Throughout this situation we have been providing connections, information, data and insights to assist in relevant conversations and decision making.

As an example, data analysis from Hort Innovation’s Australian Horticulture Statistics Handbook was provided to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to help inform harvest workforce discussions that culminated in temporary changes to visa arrangements.

Hort Innovation was also able to provide data and information on trade impacts across horticulture industries, contributing to the government’s $110 million airfreight support measures for exporters.

 

Our R&D investments are being assessed and managed for risks

Hort Innovation is currently managing over 350 R&D investments involving industry levies, all working to improve productivity, create demand and increase profitability for horticulture growers. As always, our R&D Managers are actively overseeing these projects, now with an additional lens for delivery risks relating to COVID-19.

The team completed an initial assessment of all active projects in April 2020, working with project delivery partners on a case-by-case basis to determine those projects that have been or are likely to be disrupted by COVID-19, and the extent of the potential impact.

With continued COVID-19 restrictions and impacts disrupting the delivery of some R&D investments, in August 2020 a formal survey was distributed to all delivery partners for current investments. All responses were reviewed and critically analysed to determine if any adjustments would be needed.

The survey results indicated a number of disruptions to project delivery such as the inability to travel to field sites, access to personnel and gathering restrictions impacting in-person extension events. Overall, the survey showed that delivery partners have sufficient continuity plans in place however around 61 projects did require some additional control measures to be taken. In the majority of cases, a project extension at zero cost was required to ensure project deliverables could still be achieved

Looking forward, we will continue to monitor the delivery of projects closely and any ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

 

Our marketing programs are evolving with the situation

The Hort Innovation marketing team has a clear COVID-19 action plan, which involves daily review and leveraging of all insights and data relating to the shifting consumer attitudes and behaviours when it comes to what they buy, where they shop and the advertising they consume. This includes making good use of the levy-funded Harvest to Home consumer insights portal, with Nielsen providing additional information and updates specific to COVID-19 direct to Hort Innovation.

The marketing team is using all information available to inform changes to the 25 levy-funded industry marketing programs that are active in market, and in planning for the immediate future knowing that consumers are looking for practical and realistic information – especially relating to the role of horticulture products in supporting health. 

Overall, COVID-19 means that marketing activity is shifting away from face-to-face and in-store activities such as sampling and point-of-sale activations and seizing more digital and other remote engagement with consumers.

You can see updates and changes to marketing activities for individual industries below and on your relevant grower page:

Update: 7 December 2020

The Hort Innovation Apples and Pear Fund marketing programs for FY20 did not see any significant activities impacted due to COVID-19. At the onset of COVID-19, the program was adapted to meet the changing needs of consumers. This included increasing the frequency of social media messaging to highlight health benefits and provide consumers with helpful advice and usage ideas.

The FY21 domestic marketing plans for Australian Apples and Pears are currently in development, each targeting a March 2021 launch. The COVID-19 climate continues to be closely monitored to ensure the FY21 programs are well-informed on current trends and consumer sentiment, as well as the most effective messaging and tones.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Apple and Pear Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020)

The Hort Innovation Avocado Fund marketing program’s main objective is to drive brand preference of Australian avocados by leveraging the brand position of ‘Aussie avos make everything better’.

This spring and summer season, due to adverse weather conditions, the 2020 harvest from WA has been significantly impacted (September 2020 – February 2021). As a result, the focus for this season is to drive top of mind awareness of Aussie avocados and encourage people to support local, Australian growers.

From a COVID-19 point of view, the objective has been to drive in-home consumption through social channels such as Instagram and Facebook with:

  • Inspiring recipes that are shared by micro influencers on social media to leverage their audiences
  • Engagement with avocado lovers through interesting content and competitions.

In October 2020, Australian Avocados partnered with Australia’s biggest virtual dinner party, Isolation Degustation, sharing a meal in solidarity with Melbourne on their last Saturday night of lockdown. The partnership included:

  • Australian Avocados as a key ingredient in the curated set menu
  • Integration into at-home packs via sampling
  • Branding and logo on collateral, including delivery box
  • Social amplification.

This dinner is a symbolic reminder that we have the power to do better together and a virtual event is an interesting and innovative way to bring people together through COVID-19.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Avocado Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020)

The Hort Innovation marketing program aims to increase domestic demand for bananas by sustaining their position as the country’s number one snack. The current creative of “Peel Good, Feel Good” continues to be relevant in the current COVID-19 climate and beyond. The marketing program is focused on ensuring that all investments are made in the best fit media channels in the current environment.

The program targets young families as the key demographic as they are engaged with grocery shopping, recipes and cooking. The emerging trend of DIY in-home baking will be leveraged along with the need to keep kids occupied at home as on-the-go snacking begins to build as a key occasion.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Banana Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020)

Due to seasonality timings, the FY20 Hort Innovation Cherry Fund marketing program did not see any significant impact to activities as a result of COVID-19. In collaboration with the cherry industry, the ongoing COVID-19 climate has been monitored closely to develop the FY21 Australian Cherries marketing program, ensuring the program is well-informed on the ongoing changes in consumer trends and sentiment. The FY21 campaign is set to go live from November 2020, with the objective of driving demand for Australian Cherries, through driving relevancy of Cherries as a ‘limited time’ fruit treat across the entire cherry season (beyond Christmas) to increase the purchase frequency of cherries.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Cherry Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

The Hort Innovation Chestnut Fund marketing program will not see any significant activities affected this financial year due to COVID-19. The COVID-19 climate will be monitored closely to ensure that the program is well-informed on current trends and consumer sentiment when future planning for marketing activities commences.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Chestnut Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

The Hort Innovation Citrus Fund marketing program did not see any significant activities impacted in FY20 due to COVID-19. The COVID-19 climate continues to be closely monitored to ensure the FY21 program is well-informed on current trends and consumer sentiment. Consultation with the industry is currently underway to develop a domestic and export marketing plan to present to the Citrus SIAP in December 2020.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Citrus Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

The Hort Innovation Custard Apple Fund marketing program will not see any significant activities affected this financial year due to COVID-19. Given the current climate, the frequency of messaging will be increased to highlight the health benefits of custard apples and to focus on usage ideas to inspire consumers. Newly created videos are performing well and are aimed at driving in-home consumption by educating consumers on how to use custard apples at home.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Custard Apple Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020)

The Hort Innovation Dried Grape Fund marketing program will not see any significant activities affected this financial year due to COVID-19. The COVID-19 climate will be monitored closely to ensure that the program is well-informed on current trends and consumer sentiment when future planning for marketing activities commences.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Dried Grape Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

The Hort Innovation Lychee Fund marketing program will proceed as planned for the 2020 season. In planning for the upcoming campaign, consumer trend data was used to help inform what messages the industry communicates to consumers – Australian Produced; Health; and Taste. Furthermore, with the viability of instore demonstrations in doubt, the industry will be pivoting to mobile proximity media to communicate to shoppers.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Lychee Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

The Hort Innovation Macadamia Fund actively markets Australian-grown macadamias to consumer and trade audiences in a host of markets including Australia, Japan, Europe, Taiwan, South Korea and China.

So far macadamias have not been significantly affected by the unfolding COVID-19 crisis. While there have been some delays in the supply chain, demand for macadamias and other nuts has been strong, as they are a healthy food, great for snacking at home, shelf stable and easy to supply via online shopping. 

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Macadamia Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

As the mango season progresses, the Hort Innovation Mango Fund marketing program will be implemented with consideration of the current COVID-19 environment and consumer behaviour. The current creative is positioned around “This season’s must have” and sees a high concentration of activity in digital channels which are over-indexing with consumers during COVID-19.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Mango Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

At the onset of COVID-19, the Hort Innovation Mushroom Fund marketing program was adapted to meet the changing needs of consumers. For more information on last financial year’s activities, you can read this piece of industry communications from April 2020.

In FY21, the Australian Mushrooms marketing program is focused on new creative development and reaching Australians through online channels and in-store. Due to challenges in sampling food in-store, Australian Mushrooms will partner with major retailers to focus on alternatives to sampling to highlight the benefits of mushrooms – such as through Woolworths Mushroom Month in November 2020.

For more information, stay tuned to the Australian Mushrooms industry updates via email, and the quarterly Australian Mushrooms Journal.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Mushroom Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

Hort Innovation is responsible for investing the nursery marketing levy into a range of activities to drive awareness and support the use of Australian nursery products, under the Hort Innovation Nursery Fund.

Since the start of COVID-19, where lockdowns have given people time to reflect and reprioritise what is important to them, we have seen a huge resurgence of ‘gardening’. There could be various reasons behind this such as, a desire to connect more with nature, to enjoy the many health benefits that come with having plants (mental health, cleaner air, aesthetics), or to balance out their busy lives with more hands on nature–based activities.

To understand these trends more, consumer research has been planned to explore current usage and attitudes towards greenlife and how this may differ across life–stages.

 The output of this study will enable optimisation of future nursery levy marketing programs and drive better decision making via increased industry knowledge.

In terms of the current marketing program, Plant Life Balance continues to inspire millennials to purchase plants for their homes.

The second iteration of the Plant Life Balance Trend Report, due to be released in November, will also place COVID-19 in the spotlight.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Nursery Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020)

Update: 7 December 2020

The Hort Innovation Onion Fund marketing program did not see any significant changes last financial year (FY19/20) at the onset of COVID-19. Communications from Australian Onions were updated with a greater focus on health and digital media channels. This changed style of communication will continue this financial year as the effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt.

In FY21, the marketing program will continue to inspire Australians with new onion–heavy recipes and will also focus on amplifying onions’ health credentials. This approach takes advantage of both consumers’ increased focus on health and home cooking due to COVID-19.

Due to the challenges of in-person events and food sampling, this financial year the program will look at reaching consumers through online channels. Australian Onions will partner with health, food, and lifestyle influencers to encourage families to consume more onions.

Lastly, the marketing program will see the addition of a The Good Mood Food campaign advertisement, to encourage Australians to see onions in a new light, and ultimately increase demand. Onions will star in an engaging, informative 15-second animation showing how they are even more than just a pantry staple.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Onion Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

Update: 7 December 2020

The ‘always on’ approach to social media ensures that Australian Papayas remain top of mind for consumers. Given the current climate, the frequency of messaging will be increased to highlight the health benefits of papaya and usage ideas. The current sentiment across Facebook and Instagram continues to be very positive for Australian Papayas. Fans are consistently expressing their love for the taste and health benefits of papaya as well as showing overwhelming support for our Aussie growers.

The Spring press release and media outreach has gone ahead as planned, and coverage across print, online, and social media has been secured. Furthermore, the industry has invested in updating the Health Report with current nutritional information and recipes to provide media with additional information and resources on papaya.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Papaya Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

Update: 7 December 2020

The media campaign to support the upcoming flush is already starting to land results and further outreach to media outlets will be made to drive awareness and engagement. For example, The Canberra Weekly published a passionfruit recipe in print and online.

Planned social media content has been reviewed to ensure that the messaging is appropriate in the current climate while continuing to inspire Australians with delicious passionfruit recipes. This review has included:

  • Increasing the frequency of health messaging and the nutritional benefits that passionfruit can provide to consumers at this time
  • Increasing educational messaging about selection, usage, and storage ideas
  • Refining messages to ensure that content is helpful during social distancing/isolation periods – such as removing references to ‘entertaining with friends’ and showcasing relevant recipes that are great for freezing or sharing tips on extending the life of fresh produce through proper storage techniques.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Passionfruit Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

Update: 7 December 2020

Sampling activities at the Sydney Royal Easter Show earlier this year in collaboration with Australian Papaya were unfortunately cancelled due to restriction at the time.

Social media, however, has remained a key channel for promoting the persimmon season, with 16 posts across the Persimmons Australia Facebook and Instagram pages so far. Given the current climate, the frequency of messaging will be increased to highlight the health benefits of persimmon and usage ideas that are relevant for the current in-home environment that consumers are experiencing.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Persimmon Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020)

Update: 7 December 2020

The ‘always on’ approach to social media ensures that Australian Pineapples remain top of mind for consumers. Given the current climate, the frequency of messaging is being increased to highlight the health benefits of pineapples and usage ideas. All content is being reviewed to ensure the tone is appropriate in the current context, and opportunities to jump on emerging consumer trends are being considered.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Pineapple Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

Update: 7 December 2020

The Hort Innovation Raspberry and Blackberry Fund marketing program is continuing to explore opportunities to tap into heightened consumer interest in recipe inspiration as part of the upcoming rubus-specific digital campaign. The COVID-19 climate is being monitored closely to ensure that the latest trends and consumer sentiment is considered, particularly in the content plans for social media.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Raspberry and Blackberry Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

Update: 7 December 2020

With the FY20 summerfruit season wrapping up at the onset of COVID-19, marketing activities were not significantly impacted. Social media communications were tweaked to ensure relevant messaging to consumers, with a greater focus on health and usage ideas for at home and cooking with kids.

The FY21 Hort Innovation Summerfruit Fund marketing program is locked in to go live from November 2020 through to April 2021. The objective of the campaign is to drive demand by growing consumer consideration for Australian Summerfruit and preference for eating them more often this season.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Summerfruit Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

Last financial year, the Hort Innovation Sweetpotato Fund marketing program was adapted to ensure effective communication with our target audience through online channels. To revisit the changes to marketing activity at the onset of COVID-19, see here.

This financial year, the marketing program is focused on new creative development and reaching Australians through a mix of online and offline channels. For example, Australian Sweet Potatoes will partner with health, food, and lifestyle influencers on social media to effectively reach the target audience. The marketing program will also see further participation in The Good Mood Food campaign, through Broadcaster Video on Demand (BVOD), YouTube, and Social media advertising.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Sweetpotato Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

At the onset of COVID-19, the FY20 Hort Innovation Table Grape Fund marketing program was adapted to respond to the changing needs of consumers and media, as well as the introduction of restrictions, border closures and lockdowns impacting events. This included the cancellation of a Western Australia media farm visit in March, and the pausing of broader media outreach due to the virus dominating the media landscape. Instead, social media activity was ramped up, with a focus on health to drive relevancy with consumers in the climate. 

The FY21 marketing program is currently in development, and in response to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on travel and in-person events, the focus of the activity will be a national digital and social communications campaign, as well as a bespoke Western Australia campaign (due to biosecurity issues between states). The campaign will go live from the end of November, targeting three critical timings, including: season launch in November, supply peak throughout January, and later season varieties in March.

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Table Grape Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).

There have not been any major changes to the Hort Innovation Turf Fund marketing program due to COVID-19. Consumer engagement through channels such as the Lawnspiration Facebook page, Lawnspiration website, e-newsletters and media relations using ambassadors are continuing as planned, but with tailored messaging suitable to the new COVID-19 context.

The Hort Innovation Turf Fund marketing program has used this opportunity to provide relevant and helpful information to Australians such as:

  • Benefits of having turf at home
    • Physical (exercise and activities during self-isolation)
    • Mental health (fresh air, open space, green space view outside your window)
    • Financial (value add for your home)
  • Handy hints for installing and maintaining your lawn
  • Fun lawn hacks and kid-related activities (such as turning your backyard into a gym, obstacle course, playground, picnic ground or sports field).

You can see a full update on marketing program activity in 2019/20 on the Hort Innovation Turf Fund marketing snapshot page here (updated November 2020).


The Good Mood Food, a cross-horticulture marketing initiative, continues

The Good Mood Food initiative is a cross-horticulture, direct-to-consumer marketing campaign that aims to invigorate consumer purchasing habits for fruit, vegetables and nuts. Developed by Hort Innovation, its goal is to educate Australians of all ages on the ways fruit, vegetables and nuts can promote health and wellbeing – and to drive purchase and re-purchase a variety of produce. The campaign is being funded through risk management reserves that the Hort Innovation Board has released in response to the challenging times being faced by the horticulture sector following drought, bushfires and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

The campaign began on social media, followed by promotion across television, print, radio and online. Beginning in May the campaign will run through until the end of November.

To learn more about The Good Mood Food check out the website or follow on Instagram here and on Facebook here.

There are some necessary changes to our international trade activities

As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold globally, the Hort Innovation international trade team is working closely with Austrade, in-market partners and agencies to track the situation as well as consumer sentiment in export markets. This is being done to manage any potential impacts on current or future international activities occurring under our Taste Australia banner. The team is in daily contact with agencies across China, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, The Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand to ensure that intel is accurate.

Taste Australia retail-based activity, such as in-store sampling for consumers in international supermarkets, is impacted in some markets due to COVID-19. The trade team is working with partners to consider how retail support can be continued through avenues such as social media, e-commerce, TV shopping channels and other mechanisms.

Asia Fruit Logistica (AFL) and AsiaFruit Congress are major trade events where the international fresh fruit and vegetable supply chains meet to network with over 400 key players from more than 40 countries worldwide.

Due to international travel restrictions, both events went digital this year taking place in mid-November 2020. The sophisticated online trade show platform connected exhibitors with buyers and sellers in Asia. It gave thousands of visitors a chance to make new connections, organise and conduct formal business meetings, discuss deals and plan the season ahead. Hort Innovation led the Australian National Pavilion where visitors connected with Australian delegates and businesses. 

If you have any questions about these events, please get in touch with us at communications@horticulture.com.au

More information on Hort Innovations participation at trade shows this year is available from Hort Innovation’s Head of International Trade, Brei Montgomery: brei.montgoomery@horticulture.com.au

More broadly, the Hort Innovation trade team continues to work closely with industries and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment with a focus on reviewing current and future market access and improvement opportunities. The industry Trade Advisory Panel is convening fortnightly to navigate this complex environment.

We’re delivering COVID-19 information to industry and beyond

Hort Innovation is maintaining a webpage with reliable and up-to-date COVID-19 information for all horticulture participants, with a focus on links and resources to help growers and the supply chain continue to operate in ever-changing circumstances. You can view the webpage here.

We’re also communicating relevant information to the Australian public, with a focus on the health and safety of our growers’ horticultural produce. Examples include Hort Innovation’s media outreach on the safety of fresh food, driving home the fact that there is no evidence COVID-19 can be transmitted through fresh produce, and ongoing public engagement through Hort Innovation’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn channels (be sure to follow us in these channels to see what we’re putting out there, both for consumers and growers).

 

We’re putting our focus where it matters

As you can see from everything above, at this time we’re focusing our efforts on continuing our investments, continuing to get information in the hands of growers and the wider horticulture sector, and continuing being a source of reliable data and information for the sector and key decision makers across the country.

Hort Innovation is working hard to navigate the changing landscape and to provide our stakeholders with updates along the way. As priorities shift, some activities may take on a new or bigger focus as we respond to the changing needs of the horticulture sector.