MILWAUKIE, Ore. — Consumer advertising is helping consumers understand when winter pears are at their juicy and sweet best.
During its third year of national consumer advertising, Pear Bureau Northwest plans to place ads November through February in Cooking Light, Weight Watchers, Bon Appétit and other publications, said Cristie Mather, director of communications for bureau.
Mather said that in 2006, only about 8% of consumers knew how to tell when a winter pear was ripe.
From 2006 to 2010, the bureau ramped up nonpaid consumer communications focused on ripening. In that time, the effort helped double the number of consumers who said they knew how to check pears for ripeness.
While encouraged by that gain, Pear Bureau officials thought a paid national advertising campaign could pay benefits.
After the first year of consumer advertising, a survey showed 18% of consumers knew how to check for ripeness, and that jumped to 30% after the recently-completed second year.
Mather said she is looking forward to still more positive results from the campaign. New ads depict a “text” conversation between a consumer and a pear. The consumer texts a question to the pear about ripening and the pear comes back an answer and shows the pear being used in a recipe. Last year’s ads also incorporated text messages; more than 200 of the 27,000 consumers who texted the bureau received boxes of pears.
More than half of those agreed to continue to receive messages from the bureau.
In the third year of the campaign, Mather said no pear giveaways are planned. Instead, readers will be encouraged to text to get a link to a featured recipe and the option to continue to receive messages — mostly recipes — about pears.
Mather said the campaign specifically targets food magazines that focus on nutrition, with female readers in the 25-54 age range.
The bureau also has a presence in social media, recently starting an Instagram account.
The bureau will participate in various food festivals, and Mather said social media efforts are becoming increasingly strategic and less spontaneous.
The bureau will also promote pear-related posts on Facebook.
“You can target it by interest,” she said. “You can get a lot for a little bit of money.”
The bureau will have its second year of promotions tied to the children’s show “LazyTown” in the 2013-14 season. The campaign features in-store materials, in-store events for select stores, school assemblies that feature the program’s Sportacus character with health and award assemblies.
Mather said ripening and recipes remain the highest topics of interest for consumers. While most pears are eaten whole or in slices, Mather said the bureau stresses their versatility.
“We can really help them understand that pears can be a part of any course of any meal of the day,” she said.
In conjunction with the bureau’s LazyTown promotion, Facebook ads can direct consumers to go to retail stores in a particular city for a LazyTown promotion featuring Sportacus. Mothers would take pictures of their children interacting with the LazyTown character.
“You see if it is going to work for something like that, and for us, it did,” she said.
Mather said back-to-school communication efforts educate consumers about the first varieties available, including bartletts and starkrimson.
Mather said the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act has upped the opportunities for fruits and vegetables in schools and pears can play a big part of that.
Over the past two years, she said the bureau has developed new recipes for school foodservice that incorporate other produce.
“We have breakfast recipes, we have entrees, we have a grilled cheese sandwich that includes a pear in it, so we’re doing lots of fun things that show how pears can be a part of what they are already doing,” she said.
For 2013-14, the bureau plans to increase communications to school foodservice officials. Currently, the bureau has about 1,000 contacts in school foodservice, developed at the School Nutrition Association convention. The bureau plans to provide officials with quarterly or monthly e-newsletter reminding them of resources and kits available to them, including handling and ripening tips.