Although North America is the largest market for Chilean fresh fruit — with more than 900,000 tons of Chile’s total 2.6 million tons imported there in 2012-13 — the average U.S. consumer doesn’t necessarily know where the apples, grapes or kiwi came from or how they got there.
“There seems to be a lack of knowledge among consumers about the range of product and the vast volume of fresh fruit from Chile,” said Karen Brux, North American managing director for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, San Carlos, Calif.
“We’ve had a lot of questions from foodservice, retailers and consumers about Chile. They want to know what’s being grown and when, and they also want to know about food safety.”
The association has developed a document that addresses those questions.
The document highlights the fact that Chile is surrounded by desert to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Andes Mountains to the east, and the Patagonia ice fields to the south. Those natural barriers protect Chile’s growing areas from pests and diseases.
The document also promotes Chile’s sustainability and food safety practices and includes an availability chart and a map illustrating where various commodities are grown.
The association isn’t stopping there.
This season, retailers also will be able to promote Chilean fruit and educate consumers with new point-of-sale materials.
“In the past, we had a whole set of POS materials — bin wraps, recipes, care and handling tips — but people have seen it for a number of years,” Brux said. “We’re starting fresh.”
Brux said the association hopes to work with retailers to develop customized, commodity-specific materials that meet the unique needs of each retailer.
“We want to have a whole new look and feel for POS,” she said. “It’s difficult to go out with a one-size-fits-all approach. We want to sit down with retailers and find out what works for them.”
The Chilean Fresh Fruit Association also plans to supply retailers with videos that can be used online or with in-store TVs.
The association promoted its citrus season with videos, filmed in an orchard, that informed viewers about availability, transit times, health benefits, and harvesting methods.
Brux said retailers used the videos on their websites and Facebook pages.
“There’s a lot of interest,” she said. “We’ll be developing videos for other commodities.
“It’s about giving it to (retailers) in an effective way so they can get the message out to their customers. Retailers are really gravitating to social media.”
The association also hopes to reach consumers by building relationships with dietitians.
The Produce for Better Health Foundation offered a three-day symposium for supermarket dietitians during the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit convention in October in New Orleans.
The event offered companies and associations a chance to work with more than two dozen dietitians, representing 22 retail chains and nearly 4,500 stores nationwide.
Brux said it was an excellent opportunity.
“Retail dietitians are on the front line,” she said. “They’re the ones interacting directly with consumers and shippers, so we can work with them to educate consumers about fruit from Chile and talk about our standards, safety, health benefits, and why it’s a great choice for consumers.”