MILWAUKIE, Ore. — Consumer advertising is helping consumers understand when winter pears are at their juicy and sweet best.
During the third year of national consumer advertising, ads will be placed in Cooking Light, Weight Watchers, Bon Appétit and other publications in the November through February issues, with the first ads in magazines hitting newsstands in early to mid-October, said Cristie Mather, director of communications for the Pear Bureau Northwest, Milwaukie.
Mather said that in 2006, only about 8% of consumers knew how to tell when a winter pear was ripe.
From 2006-10, the bureau ramped up nonpaid consumer communications focused on ripening messages. In that time period, the effort helped to double the percentage of consumer who said they knew how to check pears for ripeness, to 16%.
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 the percentage of consumers who know how to check for ripeness rose to 18%.
The just-concluded second year of consumer advertising netted a big increase. A recent survey showed 30% of consumer said they know how to check for pear ripeness.
Now entering the third year of the campaign, Mather said she is looking forward to still more positive results from the campaign. The content of the ad depicts a texting conversation between an average consumer and a pear. The average consumer texts a question to the pear about ripening and the pear answers and shows the pear being used in a recipe.
The campaign’s first year listed only a website on the ads, but the second year of the ads incorporated text messages. The ad asked consumers to text the bureau’s to see if they were instant winners of a box of pears.
Mather said the bureau gave away more than 200 boxes of pears to readers across the country, with 27,000 people texting in response to the ad.
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 have a nutrition bent to them, with women readers in the 25-54 age range.
The bureau also has an active presence in social media, recently starting an Instagram account.
The bureau will participate in various food festivals in the months ahead, 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,” she said.
The bureau will have its second year of promotions tied to the children’s show “LazyTown” in the 2013-14 season. The campaign will feature in-store material and events for select stores, and school assemblies that feature Sporticus 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. Moms would take pictures of their kids 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.
“This is a prime to shine a spotlight on starkrimson,” he said.
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 commodity foods.
“We have breakfast recipes, we have entrees, we have a grill 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 will 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.