“We barely had a couple of months under our belt, and suddenly COVID-19 hit and we couldn’t keep up with demand, and now we’re seen as a strategic priority within the company with very aggressive expansion plans,” said Perdue, a fourth generation family member who worked in advertising for several years before joining the family business in 2013.
“We’d been dipping our toes into e-commerce prior to this via third party sites and digital storefronts like Amazon Prime, Walmart.com and so on, but we wanted to build a dedicated digital team.
“Our team is led by [CMO] David Zucker, who spent his entire career working in e-commerce businesses from Priceline and Martha Stewart to Vitacost, and we’ve brought in a lot more great talent from outside the agriculture industry; people with experience in design, digital marketing and back end engineering and support.”
While Perdue’s brands are widely available at retail, much of the business at perduefarms.com has been incremental, noted Perdue.
“We’re seeing a lot of new customers and many of the questions we get online are from people that aren’t familiar with our brands.”
He added: “The great thing about a digital storefront is that you can also offer a wider range of SKUs [that might not necessarily be carried in all of the firm’s brick & mortar partners], from our blended Chicken Plus line to gluten-free products,” although the lion’s share of the revenue is driven by the curated bundles that dominate the landing pages.
“The bundles are very popular, and people are also looking for specific products they can’t find in retail, especially during COVID. .”
Customer acquisition and retention
As for shoppers, while the core buyers online are women aged 35-55-years, often with kids at home, Perduefarms.com is seeing a growing number of orders from younger consumers cooking at home and older consumers that are shopping online for the first time, especially in south Florida and other areas with a higher percentage of retirees.
As for customer acquisition and retention, Perduefarms.com does a significant amount of its paid advertising on social media, and when it secures new customers, seeks to keep them engaged with special offers and content explaining where its products are sourced from.
Perdue and the plant-based trend
So how is Perdue engaging with the plant-based trend?
The company has dipped its toes in the water with Chicken Plus nuggets, tenders and patties, hybrid products featuring a 50:50 blend of chicken and plant-material (the latter supplied from The Better Meat Co), which “has been a huge success for us,” said Perdue.
“It actually outperforms traditional [chicken] products in taste tests.”
The success of the range has prompted the company to explore a wider set of plant-based options, he added, although he can’t share any details at this stage:
“It’s a space we’re actively looking at as our mission is to be one of the most trusted names in premium protein, to provide center plate solutions.”
Avoiding a race to the bottom
Moving forward, Perdue is also looking to increase its focus on value added products – free range, pasture-raised, organic, grassfed, heritage breeds, plant-based – to move away from commodity products, he said.
“In our industry there are a lot of people that are very cost-conscious and you can either race to the bottom, or you can invest in your products and try and race to the top.”
Perduefarms.com features dedicated branding (Perdue has an iconic blue brand, but Perdue Farms has never before been a consumer facing brand), and sells an assortment of frozen products from brands including PERDUE, Niman Ranch, Coleman Natural, Sonoma Red and Skagit Red. Packaging is 100% recyclable, while the foam insulation is made from water-soluble cornstarch, which can be composted, or disintegrated under running water and safely rinsed down a kitchen sink.
Each order includes a reusable shopping tote and a packet of bee- and butterfly-friendly seeds. With each sale, Perdue Farms also makes a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation (a nonprofit conservation and education organization) to help offset the shipment's carbon footprint.