The Bard, Calif.-based Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers Association plans to roll out a 4-ounce snack pack in mid-September to provide consumers with an inviting trial size and added convenience.
“A lot of people don’t even know what dates are,” said Juan Guzman, marketing manager. “We’re just trying to create awareness. A lot of the time people in the grocery store are just looking for something, and this is the perfect size for them to start trying dates.”
The roll-out coincides with the start of harvest and a new crop of medjool dates.
The packs, which will retail for $2.49-$2.99 each, will be available with pitted or whole dates as well as coconut and almond date rolls.
The association plans to market them through the same retail and club outlets as their other medjool products, Guzman said. That line includes 2-, 5- and 11-pound bulk boxes; 1- and 2-pound tubs; and 8- and 12-ounce packages.
The snack packs come on the heels of the association’s roll out of the Natural Delights brand last year.
As part of that launch, the growers’ group developed a comprehensive nationwide consumer marketing campaign that includes print and digital media, in-store sampling, retail promotions and coupons.
The association plans to promote the snack packs on a limited scale among retail channels, but not among consumers, he said.
“At this point because the brand just launched, we’re focusing all of our efforts on the brand itself,” Guzman said.
The growers’ group also has enjoyed double-digit business growth each of the last four years, prompting it to double its crop conditioning capacity and install additional optical color sorters, said Dave Anderson, marketing director.
The association has two facilities in the Yuma, Ariz., area â an incoming facility and a pre-packing operation. The improvements will be installed before the start of this season, and most are planned for the receiving facility, he said.
The pre-packing facility already had color sorters.
Medjools are harvested during a six- to seven-week period in the Bard Valley beginning in late August.
After the association runs the dates through color sorters, it conditions them to ensure a consistent moisture level.
“It’s virtually impossible to sell 12 months out of the year unless you manage the moisture content,” he said.
With proper conditioning, dates can be successfully stored for several months in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment.
This year, the association forecasts its medjool production will be up about 19%, Anderson said.
Medjools, sometimes called the king of dates, are the largest date grown in Southwest.
They’re naturally sweet and high in fiber, providing a sustained energy release, he said.
He credits a multi-pronged marketing campaign, including retail promotions, for helping move a crop that’s grown to 20 million pounds from 10 million pounds four years ago.