Eastern apple suppliers say apples typically don’t require a lot of major promotions or fancy displays to increase sales, a trend that was especially true with this year’s supply shortage from Michigan and New York.
“Due to the scarcity of the product, the apples pretty much sold themselves,” said Peter Forrence, vice president of Forrence Orchards Inc., Peru, N.Y.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime year.”
Even in Washington, where supplies are much stronger, packers say apples are a staple in most grocery baskets.
Of course, even as a staple, promotions are helpful to drive sales in the early part of the season, said Ken Korson, who works in sales and marketing for North Bay Produce Inc., Traverse City, Mich.
“Especially in the fall, you have to capture a big part of the business or you’ll miss a big part of the season,” he said.
“It’s really important to get into those fall displays because you only have a two-month window of having apples right up front.”
Promotions and contests
Many apple suppliers still choose to offer contests and other promotions for consumers.
“February is apple month for us, so that’s an exciting time in terms of marketing and promotions,” said Chris Pollock, marketing manager for BC Tree Fruits Ltd., Kelowna, British Columbia.
This year, the company plans to rerun a popular promotion from last year that invites consumers to take a photo of themselves with their apple as a healthy, portable snack.
The online-based contest, called Good to Go, will give participants the opportunity to win a cash prize of $2,000, along with $2,000 for the charity of their choice, Pollock said.
Other companies are also running large promotions this year, including Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc., which has a large effort planned to promote the Piñata variety.
“We are doing display contests, demos, Lil Snapper Piñata bags, consumer beach towel contests, social media and guerilla marketing in regional areas of the country,” marketing director Roger Pepperl said.
Yakima, Wash.-based Sage Fruit Co., also has several promotions planned for the upcoming months.
“We teamed up with NBC in June and did some cherry promotions for their Biggest Loser show. Now we’re carrying it over into apples and pears,” said Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing.
The company has specially designed tote bags, display bins and a lot of social media interaction with consumers.
Sage Fruit also plans to continue its Kids in Force promotion, which allows children to win prizes for recording their healthy eating habits and physical activity.
Forrence said bulk bins are more popular in the fall. In the winter and spring, consumers tend to purchase more bagged fruit.
In general, however, most retailers offer both options at all times, according to grower-shippers.
Some companies prefer to adjust promotions depending on the specific location.
“Different retailers have different ways of going to market, so we tailor programs to their system as opposed to having a one-size-fits-all promotion,” Sinks said.
Room for growth
For fresh-cut apple giant Crunch Pak, Cashmere, Wash., displays are critical.
“We’ve learned that displays drive sales,” said Tony Freytag, senior vice president of sales and marketing.
“If space allocation is undersized, the category will fail to grow, despite the innovative packaging and product mixes,” Freytag said.
He recommends increasing display sizes and providing secondary displays during peak snack season such as back to school season and holiday weekends.
Lee Peters, vice president of sales and marketing for Fowler Bros. Inc., Wolcott, N.Y., said there is room for new display styles and promotions.
“Not much has really changed in many years,” he said.
“I’m sure if someone would come to the apple industry with a bunch of new ideas, people would be all over it.”
There is always room for the opportunity for growth in the future. Peters said this is especially true this year.
“We’re hopeful that 2013 will bring more opportunities, and we want people to know we’ll be back with a full toolkit of promotions (in the new year),” he said.
Peters said he thinks companies who suffered from shortages last year should carefully market themselves to customers to let them know they’ll be back just as strong.
“We see this as a real opportunity to let our customers know that we are committed to this business,” Peters said.