Chilean shippers: One-voice marketing approach has its role - The Packer

Chilean shippers: One-voice marketing approach has its role

09/15/2010 01:44:08 PM
Jim Offner

Sometimes, one voice is more effective than three or more, according to avocado shippers and industry leaders.

That one voice that does much of the talking for Chile’s — as well as California’s and Mexico’s avocado industries — is the Hass Avocado Board, based in Irvine, Calif.

The 8-year-old organization was formed, in part, to bring often-divergent messages together under one roof, said Jose Luis Obregon, the board’s managing director.

“I think we’re doing things right,” he said. “Movement has been tremendous. There’s 25 million pounds of fruit moving through the system every week. Go back five years and you’re talking about 10 million-pound weeks, and people were very nervous about that.”

That angst isn’t such an issue today, with the board, whose task is to develop generic avocado promotional messages, has taken hold and gained support among shippers in all three major production areas.

“The coordination amongst all the groups, the diversity of promotions have really increased consumer demand,” Obregon said.

“How can you double volume in less than 10 years and still have a profitable business? All four groups — Mexico, Chile, California and the Hass Avocado Board — have been very successful in helping to create demand that supply has to catch up with.”

The board’s latest effort involves launching a series of studies, in conjunction with some still-to-be-announced universities, into the nutritional value of avocados.

“There are some things it takes one organization to move forward, on behalf of an entire industry,” Obregon said.

If anyone is complaining about too many voices in the marketplace, they haven’t been loud, said Brandon Gritters, avocado category manager with Interfresh Inc., Fullerton, Calif.

“A lot of big shippers are bringing stuff from every region and market their stuff and don’t specify from one area or another,” he said. “It’s a year-round program, and you can always get the size and ripeness you need. I haven’t heard any talk of one group marketing avocados in general.

The strategy works, said Maggie Bezart, marketing director for the Washington, D.C.-based Chilean Avocado Importers Association.

“They are acting as one — they’re fresh hass avocados,” she said. “As an industry, we work on joint promotions together. It’s a very unique commodity. I don’t know any other commodity in the U.S. where all three growing areas work together on joint promotions.”

She pointed to last fall’s Big Hit promotion, conducted in conjunction with the Major League Baseball playoffs.

Not that all messages require one voice.

Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission, said there are times when associations representing individual growing regions should, and do, go their own ways.

“We really kind of do both,” DeLyser said. “Programs that are targeted toward seasonal volume that’s coming from each individual area, and communications efforts that are coordinated in the sense we’re not trying to go into the same markets at the same time.”

And for good reason, DeLyser noted.

“We have a lot of responsibility to our stakeholders to spend the assessment in the best way possible,” she said. “I think you’re seeing how that coordination feeds the growth of the avocado category. It has grown really, really strongly in every region of the country.”

The “one-voice” philosophy is a work in progress, said Phil Henry, owner of Henry Avocado Corp., Escondido, Calif.

“I’d say there has been some effectiveness on unifying the message,” Henry said. “I think all the associations are talking about similar things about the nutritional benefits of avocados and the value and taste of avocados.

“I think there has been some coordination in promotional efforts and the timing of promotions in coordinating them around the Super Bowl and events like that. Certainly, there have been efforts made, and they’re all trying to work as best as they can together.”

Henry also agreed with DeLyser in citing the need for some individualized programs.

“They do represent growers from different areas and different harvest timing, so they are doing promotions for a time of year they believe is most effective for their growers,” he said. “Of course, that does result in year-round promotions, so I think they’re making an effort and there’s been improvement.”

Such cooperation and coordination is on a fairly recent phenomenon in a diversified industry, Henry said.

“I think it’s been good, and they will continue to work and continue to improve on it,” he said.



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