March 10, 2022
Cotton Incorporated has been named the 2022 Vandergriff Pioneer Award winner by the Southern Cotton Ginners Association based on over 50 years of innovation and improvements for U.S. cotton, in addition to helping to improve the bottom line of the American cotton producer.
Typically, the award is given to an individual, but the breadth of Cotton Incorporated's work spans teams of individuals and a vast number of research and promotion projects that have provided an advantage for the entire cotton industry.
Berrye Worsham, President and CEO of Cotton Incorporated. (Cotton Incorporated)
"It is an honor for Cotton Incorporated to be recognized in this way," said J. Berry Worsham, President and CEO of Cotton Incorporated. "We accept the Vandergriff Award on behalf of the U.S. cotton growers and importers, whose generosity and forward-thinking continue to make our work possible."
Cotton Incorporated was born out of the initiative that formed the Cotton Research and Promotion Program in legislation that was enacted in 1966. The company was formed in 1970 to organize and fund research and promotion.
Cotton producers recognized a need for an active research and promotion program to boost American grown cotton, when demand for cotton in apparel and home fabrics dropped because of the influx of petroleum-based polyester into the market.
Cotton Incorporated funding has included air quality cotton ginning research across the Cotton Belt.
Cotton Incorporated, whose board is made up of U.S. cotton producers, adapted a strategy that pushed new cotton product developments into the market and promoted those products and the natural characteristics of cotton through advertising and promotion.
In the 1970s, Cotton Incorporated went to work to convince mills that customers wanted the qualities that consumers wanted – comfort, ease-of-care, breathability and quality. The company also did extensive textile research and development to enable mills to tailor products to consumer demands, as well as financing advancements in fabric finishes to increase cotton's wearability.
Seal of Cotton
The Seal of Cotton was designed to give cotton and its desired features an identifiable brand for consumers. By the end of 1973, the seal was identifiable by 18% of American consumers. With the help of national advertising campaigns and in-store promotions, by 2003, 80% of consumers were able to identify the seal, making it one of the most identifiable brands in the U.S.
For cotton growers, in the 1970s the company partnered with Texas A&M to develop the cotton module builder, which changed the way that cotton was transported to the cotton gin, a seed change in the industry that increased savings on the farm and at the gin. Cotton Incorporated also began funding and coordinating research projects across the cotton belt to help improve the crop agronomically, financing variety tests and crop protection projects.
Cotton Incorporated was also and early participant in the development of the High Volume Instrumentation (HVI) process in the classing of cotton. USDA uses HVI equipment in their cotton classing labs to quantify quality, length, strength and color of cotton to let buyers know the characteristics of the cotton in each bale they are purchasing.
Van Murphy, Chairman of Cotton Incorporated. (Cotton Incorporated)
They then launched the Engineered Fiber Selection system to leverage that HVI data to improve cotton inventory management and analysis capabilities, providing electronic communication between producers, ginners, mills, and merchants/co-ops.
In the 1980s Cotton Incorporated launched the first Fabric of Our Lives commercial during the Holidays. It touched on the integral role that cotton plays in the American experience and kicked off the first use of the tag line – "The touch, the feel, the fabric of our lives."
Advertising strategies have refocused as social media became more prevalent. Now campaigns can target those who set trends and influence the purchase of cotton products directly.
Cotton Incorporated also focuses a great deal of time and effort into helping those who grow the crop. A dedicated percentage of funding that comes into the program goes to funding research that producers determine important through the State Support Program. Those programs include local producer education programs, as well as research on the plant, insect control and weed control.
Personnel representing national brands and retailers are shown in-field cotton operations through Cotton Incorporated's Importer Support Program.
Sustainability is a huge part of the company's platform as well. They know that every producer needs to be sustainable in order to keep their operation viable. Many of the research programs focus on energy, water and nutrition efficiency.
The Vandergriff Pioneer Award recognizes the efforts of Cotton Incorporated to increase demand and profitability for the American cotton producer.
"Naturally I am very proud that the Cotton Incorporated staff and their work are receiving such a prestigious recognition," said Van Murphy, a Georgia cotton grower and current chairman of Cotton Incorporated. "For more than 50 years, the company has dedicated itself to increasing U.S. cotton demand and enhancing profitability for the entire U.S. cotton industry. The success of the company’s mission acknowledged by the Southern Cotton Ginners Association is a highlight of my tenure as Chairman."
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