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Putting the peas in podcasting

A handful of food industry players are exploring the growing space. Compelling content is key to attracting repeat listeners

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True crime, comedy, sports and pop culture are all mainstays of the more than 630,000 podcasts that soundtrack our daily commutes and gym workouts. But the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) believes some people want to hear about bok choy as much as they do Bird Box.

Ian Brodie, manager, education with the Ottawa-based organization, says the average episode of Produce Talks garners more than 1,500 downloads across the CPMA website, iTunes and Google Play.

The CPMA is among a handful of grocery and grocery-affiliated organizations throughout North America dabbling in podcasting. Their involvement comes as the medium enjoys explosive growth. According to the Canadian Podcast Listener 2018 report, 26% of Canadian adults—52% of them in the coveted 18 to 34 demographic—were monthly podcast listeners last year, up from 24% in 2017.

“People are spending time with the medium,” says Paul Briggs, a senior analyst covering the Canadian market for research firm eMarketer. He adds that the “intimacy” of the format is attractive to marketers. Brand-produced podcasts like those from the CPMA are also on the rise, although Briggs says brands should resist the urge to fill each episode with promotional messaging. Instead, the focus should be on compelling content that will attract repeat listeners.

The CPMA has produced more than 60 episodes of Produce Talks. They feature titles that range from the saucy (“Some Like It Mashed”) to the matter-of-fact (“Ethnic and Exotic Produce”) to the slyly clever (“Between 2 Chairs 2018,” a nod to actor Zach Galifianakis’s popular online show Between Two Ferns). Brodie says Produce Talks enables the CPMA to reach a new audience. “[It] was launched to share knowledge and experiences with a wide audience that we couldn’t typically reach with more traditional means of communication,” he says.

Future episodes of Produce Talks will cover the new Canada’s Food Guide, the new Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, as well as new technology and innovations impacting the industry.

For now, Canadian grocery retailers are largely absent from the space, although Hamilton, Ont.-based natural food store Goodness Me! has produced 54 episodes of its weekly Honest to Goodness podcast since it debuted in 2017.

Goodness Me! bills Honest to Goodness as “a podcast about life and wellness, and the balance between the two.” Featuring Goodness Me! founder Janet Jacks and her daughter Emily, Honest to Goodness’s 30-minute episodes talk about everything from food trends and low-carb diets to bone broth tips and food waste, all in an informal manner.

In the United States, meanwhile, Giant Food supermarket just launched Nutrition Made Easy, a biweekly podcast led by the chain’s dietitians and nutritionists. Walmart and Trader Joe’s have been dabbling in the format as well.

Described by one U.S. writer as “the new podcast we didn’t know we needed,” Inside Trader Joe’s features interviews with employees throughout the company, from the executive vice-president of merchandising all the way up to CEO. It talks about a range of Trader Joe’s-related topics, from the company history to how it brought some of its most beloved products to life.

According to a Fast Company report, the Trader Joe’s podcast has proved “weirdly popular” on iTunes, climbing to as high as No. 3 on Apple’s podcast chart. Its success led U.S. food tech blog The Spoon to fret that its popularity would spawn spinoffs like The Safeway Show or Kroger’s Korner (neither company currently offers a podcast).

The key to Inside Trader Joe’s, wrote The Spoon’s Chris Albrecht, is that it’s completely on-brand for the retailer, whose combination of quirkiness and interesting products has created legions of cult-like fans. “Anyone else trying to copy the success of this podcast will just be trying too hard, and it will inevitably not work,” he wrote.

In other words, people will be able to see through marketing masquerading as content, even if they’re blindfolded.

This article appeared in Canadian Grocer’s February 2019 issue.

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