Growers and shippers in the California desert region take multiple approaches to promoting their produce but agree the early arrival of their deal is a benefit.
For some growers, promotions are all about timing, said Franz De Klotz, vice president of marketing for Mecca, Calif.-based Richard Bagdasarian Inc.
“We’re looking for promotable volume in May into June, so with the crop that’s coming in, there should be ample supplies for promotion through May into June,” he said.
For Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International, promotions often are as simple as spreading the word about product availability, said Mike Aiton, marketing director. He said summer holidays provide a good opportunity to discuss promotions with retailers.
“When they find out items like corn and watermelon are going to be in good supply and good quality, it’s an exciting time of year for them and for us,” he said.
For Drake Larson Sales, a Thermal, Calif.-based grape grower-shipper, promotions are focused to a particular customer base, said Drake Larson, president.
“We really shoot for the mom-and-pop sort of customer,” he said.
Promotions to smaller-scale customers are better suited to his family-run operation, Larson said.
“A lot of those people, you can get a following with them because their customers like the product and you get a loyalty going,” Larson said.
Larson also promotes his product as locally grown, he said.
“I know some of the people we sell to like to go to farmers markets, and a lot we sell to are 20- or 30-store regional chains or their demographics are near a university or something like that and they have a big following,” he said.
Then, he said, is the export market.
“Actually, the export market is a good market for us,” he said. “You sell a pallet here and there and before you know it, you’ve got 50 pallets gone.”
Some years, Larson exports nearly half of his product, he said. Other years, it’s a much smaller percentage.
“It’s really interesting how the export market ebbs and flows,” he said.
The timing of the desert deal is a big part of the promotional program for Beverly Hills, Calif.-based grape grower-shipper Stevco Inc., said Dave Clyde, president.
“We talk to every major chain in the U.S., and ... when they tell us they’d like to go on ad — which most of them will for (Memorial Day) — we negotiate with them as far as price and volume,” he said.
Promotions can involve multiple varieties and colors of a commodity if they’re available, Clyde said.
“If we’ve got volume in both, we’ll go with red and green (grapes),” he said. “We do multiple colors if that’s what they want to do.”
This year, most items hit the market earlier than they would normally, which created additional promotional opportunities, said John Burton, general manager of sales and cooler for Peter Rabbit Farms in Coachella, Calif.
“Knowing we had an early start on the way, we contacted retail chains throughout the country and set several of them up on programs for volume and pricing structure that we’re used to doing during our window of operation,” he said.
Five Crowns Marketing has a built-in promotion with its new Origami cantaloupe, said Daren Van Dyke, director of sales and marketing with the Brawley, Calif.-based grower-shipper.
“We’re getting very good feedback from the trade and customers and getting into a melon of this type,” he said.