Retailers are paying more and more attention to the category, said Howard Nager, vice president of marketing at Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima.
On one recent trip to a Northeast retailer, Nager counted nine stock-keeping units for fresh-cut apples, he said.
The growing importance of the fresh-cut slicing business will be worth watching, said Robbin Erickson, sales manager for FirstFruits Marketing of Washington, Yakima.
“It is a new segment of the foodservice business,” he said. The huge growth in fresh-cut demand means less need to export smaller fruit, he said. “Now we are finding it has filled that void of having to take so much risk exporting so much product,” he said.
The fresh-cut market puts a real floor on the varieties processors use, including granny smith, Pink Lady and galas, according to Randy Steensma, president of Honey Bear Tree Fruit Co LLC. “The demand for fresh-cut is growing rapidly,” he said.
Increasing the penetration of fresh-cut apples is a goal, and Freytag said Crunch Pak aims for more communication with consumers.
“We don’t have the budgets to advertise in People or Us magazine with broad appeal, but we’re trying the texting for coupons to see what results we get,” he said.
The company is offering texting for coupons through video electronic billboards in New York.
“The fact that there is such a amalgam of people from all over the world and the U.S. that are walking past those billboards every day, it is not as though we are marketing to just the New York metro area,” he said. “You are really speaking to America and the entire U.S. just because of who is there every day,” he said.
The campaign was designed to highlight product and to see the extent it is possible to drive business, he said.
“The great thing about some of these texting programs is that they are very controllable,” he said.
The video ad can be controlled as far as when it appears.
“If we find that it moves too quickly, they can reinsert something (else) into the cycle,” he said.
Even a smaller fresh crop compared to the 2012 season is still a big leap up from two years ago, Freytag said. Bigger crops in New York and Michigan will ease the pressure of who is competing for the Washington apple crop, Freytag said.
“If you are slicer in the Midwest, it makes sense you are getting apples from the closest possible production region,” he said.
Freytag said he believes Crunch Pak will enjoy double-digit growth, largely due to apple snack slices continuing to drive sales.
Long term, Freytag said the convenience and healthy eating themes will continue to favor expansion of the category.
“There is a big upside to this market,” he said.