On today’s Bullseye: Stephanie Ganz shares in Bon Appetit her mission – to buy a package of Grateful Dead lettuce. It’s a real thing – grown and packed by Gotham Greens, one of the most exciting new produce companies in our industry which is a lettuce mix of butterhead, green and red leaf lettuce – and features the famous Grateful Dead dancing bear and a custom Grateful Dead QR code that links to a 20-song playlist on Spotify – a great reason to buy the brand for Boomers to Millenials. Gotham also pledges to plant a tree with Forest Nation for every package sold. The interesting thing about the Dead is that in a 2015 poll it found that the Dead was loved across all demographics, regardless of age or political persuasion.
In fact, in 2020 the next iteration – Dead & Company started touring with John Mayer. In the past 5 years alone, the Dead grossed $250 million in concert tours – and that’s without Jerry Garcia who died back in 1995. I spent a lot of my college years in overalls (yup that was a thing then) and had my then girlfriend sew a Grateful Dead patch right in the center of my chest. Was I a Deadhead? No, very few of us were – but there is something about this every touring band that reached out to the Boomer generation and gave us hope, love, insight and a lot of great music. When I first moved to California from New York City I lived in the same town as Garcia – we would see him walking through the town and even witnessed his wedding party on Valentines in 1994 heading to Tiburon Tommie’s after the wedding. There is a lot of criticism on social media that the Dead is selling out by putting the Dancing Bear on lettuce – Grateful Dead Productions – the merchandising arm of the organization – brings in around $70 million a year. And before you go THERE…. remember the Dead in the late 1960s had a commune in San Francisco for the band, staff, roadies – everyone – and they all were paid equally and as they became more successful, was one of the first – if not the first band - to offer profit sharing and health coverage to all. Back to the lettuce. Is this a good idea or just a sham. I think it’s a great idea.
For many years we’ve seen produce companies try to merchandise to be hip and get more shoppers to consume more produce – which is a good thing! They’ve tried characters including Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, SpongeBob and the Tasmanian Devil. Foxy hired Brooke Shields to be their brand role model and icon, even Lisa Lillien, our friend and one of the most successful food influencers of all time as Hungry Girl appeared on fresh produce - but none of these have done the job. Seemed like it was just for the money and little emotion was involved. Sure maybe it’s just a gimmick to get attention – but somewhere I think this one is different and Grateful Greens just may be a hit.