As socially-responsible produce continues to see more interest, companies are providing consumers with more ways to demonstrate their commitment to these issues. One group of companies has joined together and launched a new blueberry program which they say is dedicated to fulfilling their farm workers' dreams.
The program - simply called "Thx!" - is a joint venture, between Arandeira, a blueberry grower from Argentina, and Fudi Food and Breakthrough Solutions from Weston Florida. The companies' first shipment of blueberries is slated to begin in September from Arandeira, with the intention of moving to full-year production once more regions are integrated.
"Thx! provides an innovative way for involving younger and socially conscious shoppers in helping farm workers achieve a dream and for retailers to showcase their social commitment," noted Martin Casanova of Fudi Food. "Our first arrivals of Argentinean blueberries will be in September. We will offer a year around program, continuing with Chile, Peru and then with the US seasons (Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Oregon, Michigan, Washington). We chose blueberries to begin with because they are sourced from many different countries and regions and therefore could always be considered local."
How the farm worker achieves his 'dream'
By launching Thx!, the group wanted to help engage shoppers with the farm workers who provided their produce. When someone buys a clamshell of Thx! blueberries, they are contributing towards the purchase of a wish from one of those farm workers.
"We only conduct business with farmers that pay fair wages to their farm workers," Casanova stated. "Nevertheless, this does not shield these farm workers from encountering situations that are beyond their financial means. A storm damaged roof, a health issue in the family, a child needing help to stay in school, even things we take for granted such as connecting to the sewage or providing running water inside the house."
"Every year we assess a series of dreams and determine the cost to achieve each one of them," he continued. "This cost is converted into an equivalent amount in Thx! points and each clamshell sold accumulates one point. Once a predetermined number of clamshells have been sold and enough points accumulated, our program makes that particular dream come true - We contract, supervise and pay for the cost of making it happen."
Intention to benefit everyone
The program's main intention is to help out farm workers, especially if they have come under hardship and need a little extra help. But according to Casanova, the Thx! program will help out retailers as well as consumers by providing an avenue for making a more socially-conscious produce environment.
"The Thx! brand establishes a way to create a 'Produce for Good' movement where just as produce flows one way following the supply chain to the end consumer, retailers and other channels as well as shoppers can become involved and have an impact in the lives and communities of those that farm, pick and pack the produce," said Raul Fernandez of Breakthrough Solutions. "The program is entirely funded by the participants in the supply chain and there is no premium or extra payment required from the retailer, other than carrying our products."
"Shoppers and consumers in general have the opportunity to be fully engaged, and can access the web site and learn more about each participant in the program, about their life and interact in many different ways," he added. "They can even buy points to help accelerate their favorite dream. They can connect with these farm workers and check on the progress of their dreams by using a QSR Code on the label or logging in to the www.thxdreams.com website."
The group said that distribution will extend across the US and Canada and are even considering expanding to other fruits such as cherries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and grapes. "We are currently in conversation with retailers in North America," Casanova shared. "We are not only looking for retailers to sell our products, but also to work together in the promotion and marketing of our brand and social movement."
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