Apple grower-shippers get social

12/30/2011 11:21:00 AM
Mike Hornick

Connecting consumers with apple growers is increasingly becoming a focus of marketers’ social media efforts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“The big thing consumers want to know is who grew their food,” said Roger Pepperl, marketing director at Stemilt Growers, Wenatchee, Wash.

“We’re trying to bring the land and where the food was grown to consumers through their smartphone or computer,” he said.

“It’s the one time we have a chance to reach out and share what’s happening through harvest and packing. We’re pushing out photos and Flip videos that show what’s happening that day.”

Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash., is another shipper that turns to online video.

“Consumers are always interested to see short videos of what’s going on in the apple orchard or packinghouse now, and we’ve got those posted on our YouTube page,” said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager at Superfresh Growers.

“The goal of our social media program is to help bring consumers closer to the grower so that they know a family farmer in Washington grows their apples. That we’re not some foreign entity or huge conglomerate.”

Grower-shippers are using social media for other purposes as well, integrating with retail partners’ Facebook and Twitter accounts, holding contests or promoting club varieties.

Bob Mast, vice president of marketing at Columbia Marketing International Corp., Wenatchee, Wash., said his company is still in the early stages of exploring social media.

But CMI has Facebook pages for the company and its managed varieties Ambrosia, Kiku and Kanzi, he said.

“We’re starting to incorporate this into our bags and packaging, encouraging consumers to follow us on Facebook,” Mast said. “You have to keep social media updated, live and exciting to get them to follow you.”

“Videos increase the excitement around apples, especially when it comes to newer varieties,” Queen said. “Consumers generally stick with two to three apple varieties, so we always try to encourage sampling and drive experimentation.”

“The QR codes (on point-of-sale materials) and Facebook have been effective with new variety introduction,” said Suzanne Wolter, marketing director at Rainier Fruit Co., Selah, Wash.

Junami is one example from the company.

Stemilt Growers is in its third year of social media.

“It’s only going to get stronger,” Pepperl said. “We’re integrating with our retail partners on their Facebook pages and working back and forth between the two. Many are tagging us. We’re also getting involved with the Twitter pages and we have our own YouTube channel.”


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