Hort Innovation is continuing to work hard for you
Scroll down to find the information you need, or skip straight to what you want:
- Our open letter to the horticulture sector
- How to get in touch with our staff
- How we’re working with government and other relevant bodies
- Management of our R&D investments under COVID-19
- How our marketing activities are evolving
- Our new whole-of-horticulture marketing initiative
- Changes to international trade activities
- Getting horticulture-relevant COVID-19 information to you
- Looking ahead
In May, 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.
Hort Innovation’s office-based staff in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are currently working from home, but are just as contactable as ever.
- Contact details for your levy industry’s Industry Strategic Partner and Marketing Manager can be found here
- For information on our Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative, details of our Hort Frontiers team are here
- Our executive team are continuing to engage with industry and provide leadership to all Hort Innovation activities, with their bios and contact details here
- Hort Innovation’s online feedback form also remains open here.
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.
Hort Innovation is currently managing close to 400 R&D investments involving industry levies, all working to increase productivity and profitability for horticulture growers. As always, our R&D Managers are actively overseeing these projects, now with an additional lens for risks or roadblocks relating to COVID-19.
The team has completed an initial assessment of all active projects, working with project delivery partners on a case-by-case basis to determine those that have been or are likely to be disrupted by COVID-19, and the extent of the potential impact.
So far there is minimal actual or forecast disruption to project delivery, and project partners have good continuity plans in place.
At the time of writing, only 40-odd investments will require variations to their schedules and the things they are expected to deliver. The majority of these are projects involving extension activities such as conferences, workshops, and field days, or projects that require other face-to-face engagements with industry and partners – which are naturally affected by social distancing requirements. Meanwhile, Hort Innovation has developed a toolkit of information and resources to assist extension delivery partners in finding and using alternatives to face-to-face activities, available here.
Looking forward, we are keeping a particularly close eye on projects that cannot be easily stopped and started should COVID-19 restrictions tighten or continue very long-term, without losing work completely or putting things significantly behind.
With this criteria in mind, we have put forward the below to state Ministers as being critical areas of R&D to consider when determining essential services. These were also shared with the National Farmers’ Federation, which has been working on a comprehensive list of essential services across the whole of agriculture for the states to consider in their decision-making:
- Investments relating to biosecurity surveillance, diagnostics and active management of biosecurity risks
- Breeding trials and projects that need to maintain genetic material, as well as investments that maintain high-health budwood/planting material (with testing regimes) for public varieties for some industries, including citrus and strawberry
- Experimental orchards and established long-term trials with perennial crops, versus short-term field trials that could be re-established relatively easily and quickly
- Research that includes the maintenance of insect colonies, such as market access data research, the SITplus factory, insect gene discovery, resistance testing and the like
- Chemical residue, efficacy and crop safety field trials and the associated residue analysis undertaken in laboratories
- Farm monitoring tools and technology in trials (weather stations on farm or water monitoring equipment that require maintenance could be impacted if technicians cannot reach sites)
- Export capability programs that support industries in keeping up to date with trade affairs and building international trade capacity – international trade may slow down, but will not stop, and as markets open up again having the capacity to respond will be critical.
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: 6 May 2020
The current approach to social media ensures that Aussie apples and pears remain top of mind for consumers throughout the year. Given the current climate, the frequency of messaging will be increased to highlight health benefits and provide consumers with helpful advice whilst tapping into any emerging trends such as baking at home. Consumer sentiment and engagement across social media channels will be closely tracked and responses to consumer enquiries or concerns with helpful information during this uncertain time will be a priority.
Where relevant, food safety information will be incorporated as needed into social media activity, and an updated FAQ document has been developed to address health, food safety and availability enquiries.
Research will be conducted into changes in consumer and shopper behaviour to understand emerging trends and inform future marketing activities.
New brand campaigns and marketing plans for apples and pears are currently underway, so particular attention will be paid to how to engage with consumers during the immediate and longer term, and what the most effective message and tone will be.
As part of this, the following areas will be considered:
- How can apples and pears help consumers tackle the COVID-19 crisis? This could be through highlighting their health and immunity benefits, or through consumers feeling they are contributing positively to the cause.
- How apples and pears can reaffirm their place for consumers who have undergone significant change in their priorities and how they consume food.
- What messaging needs to be increased in the short-term, but then built into long-term plans post COVID-19
- What are the new needs or occasions to find new routes to market that have been impacted by social distancing and shutdowns e.g. wholesaling and foodservice.
In response to the unfolding COVID-19 situation, two priorities were identified for Australian Avocados and the aim to continue driving in-home consumption:
- Ensuring consumers understand how and why avocados can positively benefit them and their health during this time
- Educating consumers on how to use avocados at home, on Shepard avocados and the differences from Hass (and the change in season when it comes) and the versatility of the product across a range of meals/occasions (including replicating eating out at home).
Already planned activities such as advertisements across television, radio and ‘out of home’ placements on shopper center digital screens will continue until June 2020 and the associated consumer sentiment will be closely monitored.
You can see a full update on activity in the marketing program under COVID-19 on the Hort Innovation Avocado Fund page here (updated 6 May 2020).
The Australian Bananas marketing program aims to increase domestic demand for Australian 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, so the marketing program is focused on ensuring that investment is made in the best fit media channels.
The program is targeting young families as the key demographic who 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.
You can see a full update on activity in the marketing program under COVID-19 on the Hort Innovation Banana Fund page here (updated 6 May 2020).
As cherries aren’t currently in season, the Hort Innovation Cherry Fund marketing program will not see any significant activities affected at this stage. The COVID-19 climate will be monitored closely to ensure that the program is well-informed on current trends and consumer sentiment when planning for the next cherry season commences.
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.
The Hort Innovation Citrus 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.
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 education consumers on how to use custard apples at home.
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.
As lychees aren’t currently in season, the Hort Innovation Lychee Fund marketing program will not see any significant activities affected at this stage. The COVID-19 climate will be monitored closely to ensure that the program is well-informed on current trends and consumer sentiment when planning for the next lychee season commences.
The macadamia marketing program 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 activity in the marketing program under COVID-19 on the Hort Innovation Macadamia Fund page here (updated 6 May 2020).
As mangos aren’t currently in season, the Hort Innovation Mango Fund marketing program will not see any significant activities affected at this stage. The COVID-19 climate will be monitored closely to ensure that the program is well-informed on current trends and consumer sentiment when planning for the next mango season commences.
The Hort Innovation Mushroom Fund’s dedicated communications program has developed a comprehensive update on how the marketing program has been revised in light of COVID-19, considering the changed behaviour and media consumption of consumers. You can access the update in this PDF from April 2020.
The Hort Innovation Nursery Fund marketing program is centred around two programs:
- Plant Life Balance, a consumer and retailer program which encourages Australians to live a life filled with green. Key activities include the Plant Life Balance app, social media, e-newsletters, website, consumer events, media releases and a retailer education program.
- Greener Spaces Better Places, a national initiative that brings together together academia, business, government, community groups and the green industry to share knowledge and find new ways to work together to make sure that as cities and towns grow, so too do green spaces.
These programs have continued largely as planned, with additional activity developed in direct response to COVID-19. Furthermore, all content has been adjusted to reflect the current social and economic situation impacting consumer, business and government, with a four-step plan developed for industry to ensure strong demand for green life and green spaces during and also post COVID-19. This plan includes:
- Promoting positive media stories that support green spaces staying open for the physical and mental wellbeing of communities
- Encouraging consumers to buy nursery products to green their home and provide education on plant care to support long term demand
- Supporting retail nurseries by providing advice around how to operate within social distancing guidelines as well as online marketing options and click & collect solutions
- Maintaining government demand for green life by understanding how leading councils are seeking to maintain their urban greening programs.
You can see a full update on activity in the marketing program under COVID-19 on the Hort Innovation Nursery Fund page here (updated 6 May 2020).
Update: 6 May 2020
The Hort Innovation Onion Fund marketing program will not see any significant changes this financial year due to COVID-19. Effort has been made to ensure that the approach is appropriate for changing consumer needs, and an increased focus on digital channels to continue to reach Australian onion consumers. This shift will focus on reaching consumers in their homes, where they are spending the most time and where they are planning their shopping trips.
The ‘always on’ approach to social media (Facebook and Instagram) ensures that Australian onions remain top of mind for consumers. Given the increased consumer interest in health and home cooking in the current climate, messaging has been adapted to highlight the health benefits of onions. The Australian Onions social media channels also now provide consumers with inspiring recipes that add value to consumers’ new lifestyles, such as freezable recipes and recipes that only require pantry staples.
Australian Onions were also featured in the popular title Women’s Day (with a reach of 1.2 million people) at the end of April with an article on “How to chop onions without crying”.
Update: 6 May 2020
The ‘always on’ approach to social media ensures that Australian papaya 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 Papaya Australia. Fans are consistently expressing their love for the taste and health benefits of papaya as well as showing overwhelming support for our Aussie growers.
Upcoming sampling activities at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in collaboration with Australian persimmons were unfortunately cancelled due to current restrictions.
The Autumn press release and media outreach to support the upcoming flush has gone ahead as planned, and coverage has started to land in various media outlets.
Update: 6 May 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.
Update: 6 May 2020
Upcoming sampling activities at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in collaboration with Australian Papaya were unfortunately cancelled due to current restrictions.
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.
Update: 6 May 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.
Update: 6 May 2020
The Hort Innovation Raspberry and Blackberry marketing program is exploring opportunities to tap into heightened consumer interest for health-related content and recipe inspiration. The COVID-19 climate is being monitored closely to ensure that the latest trends and consumer sentiment is considered in the content plans for social media. Hort Innovation is also in discussion with industry on the execution of a ‘Berry Basket’ marketing campaign which is being explored as part of the ongoing development of the new marketing program from July onwards.
Update: 6 May 2020
With the summerfruit season wrapping up, the Hort Innovation Summerfruit Fund marketing program activities have mostly finished, with only social media remaining. In response to COVID-19, the social media approach has been reviewed to ensure it is appropriate in the current climate.
This has included a review of messaging and tone to ensure relevance in relation to COVID-19 as well as increasing the frequency of content about the health benefits of summerfruit and usage ideas for at home and cooking with kids. Tracking consumer sentiment and engagement across social media channels will continue and responding to any consumer enquiries or concerns with helpful information during this uncertain time will be a priority.
While upcoming in-store sampling activities have unfortunately been postponed due to current circumstances, the opportunity to really drive health messaging has been ramped up across social media and in print. The latest media campaign to promote Australian sweetpotatoes has also been launched in the midst of COVID-19, with revised health-focused messaging.
You can see a full update on activity in the marketing program under COVID-19 on the Hort Innovation Sweetpotato Fund page here (updated 6 May 2020).
There have some activities that have needed to change in the table grape marketing program in light of COVID-19, including cancellation of a media farm visit back in March. Broader media outreach has also been paused due to the virus dominating the media landscape. Social media activity, however, is ramping up with a focus on health and cut-through, with exciting new opportunities being explored.
You can see a full update on activity in the marketing program under COVID-19 on the Hort Innovation Table Grape Fund page here (updated 6 May 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 activity in the marketing program under COVID-19 on the Hort Innovation Turf Fund page here (updated 6 May 2020).
The Good Mood Food initiative is a whole-of-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 be promote health and wellbeing – and to drive purchase and re-purchase of 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, COVID-19 and what lies next.
At the time of writing the campaign had begun on social media, with activity to be ramped up across television, print, radio and online, as well as through retail partnerships. The campaign is expected to run from May to September this year, with the potential to be extended.
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 most 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.
Meanwhile, Taste Australia trade show activity typically begins in September each year, with the Asia Fruit Logistica international trade event. At the time of writing the event organisers were planning to proceed with a delayed event in November, with Hort Innovation in discussions on how to proceed with the industries, businesses and organisations who would normally participate under the Taste Australia banner. To protect industry strategic levies, a decision has been made that should things go ahead, the Taste Australia pavilion will only be open to commercial businesses for 2020, and not levy-supported delegations. More information is available from Hort Innovation’s International Market Development Manager, Julie Willis, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
A new information hub that will share market insights as well as Taste Australian in-market activity updates is currently being developed.
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).
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.
In amongst this, Hort Innovation is reviewing the company’s 2019/20 Annual Operating Plan. Each year’s plan serves as an important roadmap, outlining key activities and objectives to help us achieve the company’s overarching goals and commitments to the horticulture sector under the four-year Hort Innovation Strategy for the company. The COVID-19 situation means the priority of some activities in this year’s annual operating plan will change, with some activities shifting into future plans and others taking a new or bigger focus as we work with the changing needs and priorities of the sector.