Produce shippers ready for early Chinese New Year

12/29/2011 03:41:00 PM
Mike Hornick

Pamela RiemenschneiderChinese New Year’s early arrival this year – Jan. 23 – has limited opportunities for some produce shippers, but brands like Frieda’s and Melissa’s will have had retail marketing efforts in place for weeks.

It’s the year of the dragon — a symbol of power and prosperity – on the Chinese calendar. The holiday fell on Feb. 3 and Feb 14 in 2011 and 2010, respectively.

“We needed some more time to get fruit packed and sent,” said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager at Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash. “We would have preferred February. It was a good Chinese New Year, but the timing is a killer when we’re two to three weeks late on the apple harvest and the holiday is two to three weeks early.”

Fuji apples filled in some of the demand that couldn’t be met with red delicious – down 8% this year in Washington – or gala. The deep-red strains of gala required for the Chinese New Year market are still young and coloring wasn’t ideal, Queen said. Red, green and gold are symbolic colors for the holiday.

“Our fujis were up nearly 40%,” he said. Apple exports for the holiday have been completed.

Others, eyeing the U.S. market, welcomed the Jan. 23 date.

“The timing keeps the momentum going,” said Hazel Kelly, spokeswoman for Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Inc. “Retailers have been pushing and promoting Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, and now it’s almost a dead zone. Chinese New Year can pump up the sales and keep the momentum going. It’s actually helping the Buddha’s hand, which is an earlier citrus.”

Courtesy Frieda's Inc.Frieda’s Specialty Produce offered a 16-by-36-inch Chinese New Year banner for retail clients participating in the company's Year of the Dragon promotion. Frieda's has promoted the holiday since 1973.Frieda offers a Year of the Dragon promotion to retail clients, including a 16-by-36-inch Chinese New Year banner and point of purchase signs. Frieda’s will unveil a Facebook promotion for the holiday on Jan. 3, Kelly said.

“We encourage retailers to group Asian produce in one area, maybe creating a separate display to inspire their shoppers,” Kelly said.

Retailers and consumers can expect full availability of staple Asian produce items – bok choy, snow peas, napa cabbage, daikon, sugar snap peas and others – said Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Los Angeles-based Melissa’s/World Variety Produce Inc.

“The ones we’re probably going to struggle with, though I can’t predict the weather, are the Chinese eggplants and Chinese long beans. Sometimes in February we run into issues with lemon grass, but that’s fine now. We’re able to fall back onto Mexico supply of leafy greens if California is not supplying at the rate we’d like.”

Courtesy Melissa's/World Variety ProduceA shelf strip is part of Melissa's retail marketing effort for Chinese New Year.Melissa’s provided Chinese New Year shelf strips, danglers and recipe pads to about 650 clients signed up for their Everyday Asian promotion, Schueller said. Store ads were to start immediately after Jan. 1 and run up to Jan. 23.

Tom Tjerandsen, managing director for the San Francisco-based Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, said Chinese New Year is taking a bite out of cherries from Chile.

“China actually grows some very fine cherries, and they’re a good market for the domestic cherry harvest in California and are becoming a good market for the Chilean cherry. There aren’t a lot of fresh fruit options to retailers in early January. Red is a popular color in Asia. In U.S. cities with large Asian populations, we’re seeing cherries included in holiday promotions.”

There are more than 100 fruits and vegetables on the U.S. market associated with the Asian holiday.

They include blood oranges; pummelos; oro blanco; Buddha’s hand, also known as fingered citron; kumquats; fresh water chestnuts; young coconuts; edamame; and many others.

Asian shoppers consume twice as much produce as the average American, according to Melissa’s Everyday Asian promotion materials.

In the U.S., marketers are targeting mainstream consumers as well as Asian Americans, touting culinary diversity with the former.

Jade offers fortune, coupon

For the Chinese New Year, the Jade label will include a fortune and coupon on its packaged, prewashed line of fresh Asian vegetables.

Chinese New Year, the year of the dragon, is Jan. 23. But the fortunes and coupons have already begun shipping and extend through Jan. 31, according to a news release.

Consumers can peel off a red sticker to reveal various fortunes plus one of three coupons: – 55 cents off, $1 off, or buy one, get one free.

Jade greens are grown by Nishimori Family Farms in Southern California year-round and distributed by San Miguel Produce, Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

Jade greens include baby bok choy, baby Shanghai bok choy, gai choy, yu choy, gai lan and dau miu.



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