The Garlic Capital of the World

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The Garlic Capital of the World

The Salinas Valley in California is often called the salad bowl of the USA. The rich soils, level land, a ready source of labour and a superb climate make it the ideal growing area. The fruit and vegetable industry started in the 1850�s with apples being exported to Europe. Today apples, artichokes, beets, spinach and berries are commonly grown crops amongst a host of others. I was in the Salinas Valley in January. While the rest of the USA and Europe froze, the valley was a pleasant 55�F. North of the town Salinas, just off the 101 Highway, the main highway between LA and San Francisco is the small town of Gilroy with a large reputation. Gilroy is the Garlic Capital of the World! I had not visited Gilroy for over twenty years and I was interested to see how the marketing and retailing had developed. I had mixed feelings on both strategies. The town has done an excellent job revamping the streetscape of the old town centre and has formed a �Garlic Festival Association�, but having said that I felt the information available to the tourist was very limited. I admit I visited out of season, but in today�s world the tourist is a year round traveller. The mural in town was an excellent feature, but again under exploited by the city fathers. Travelling north on Highway 101 the traveller is exposed to two Garlic farm shops before reaching the city limits. Both have excellent roadside signage to ensure you can�t miss them. Their internal retailing was good, but not inspiring, being too price driven when they had an opportunity to educate the consumer and provide more garlic stories to increase sales, especially to tourists. I was impressed with �the worlds longest garlic braid� in one of the stores and the added value products available in both stores. What Gilroy is good at is taking a locally grown produce and creating a world famous name. I also believe that the Garlic Festival is a major tourist attraction. What did I learn from the experience? The marketing campaign should aim to pick up extra dollars �out� of season as well as �in� season. Added value products are critically important to increase sales (I spent $24 on added value garlic products, but did not buy any garlic). Retailers need to buy into the customer experience as well as just sell produce. Growers and retailers need to partner with the local government to grow events around their produce. Growers of produce around the world have an opportunity to follow Gilroy�s initiative. In the UK there are towns famous for second hand bookshops, but why not the Asparagus Capital. In New Zealand the whole country got behind the �kiwi� fruit. In Australia towns have developed the big sheep, lobster and pineapple. The opportunities exist to develop marketing strategies to grow sales.