“The proximity to market is huge,” said Tom Pletcher, vice president of sales and marketing for Belding, Mich.-based Belleharvest Sales Inc. “You’re not putting a lot of food miles on the fruit.”
Pletcher mentioned some recent focus group studies the Michigan Apple Committee has done, the results of which came out with positive results for Michigan apples.
“They show a considerably better taste profile than apples grown out West,” Pletcher said.
Donohue said in a portion of the studies, consumers were asked to blindly taste test different varieties of apples from different states. Michigan Honeycrisps came out on top, with Michigan jonagolds second, she said.
The committee is also supplying in-store signs, which it has been doing the last five years or so, Donohue said. One of those is a school bus display-ready carton to promote apples as a lunch box item.
In Michigan, Illinois and Indiana, states that consider Michigan apples as local, a proof of purchase contest will include cash prizes and a new computer for a school.
The Michigan Apple Committee also works with Select Michigan, a program originally launched by the state’s department of agriculture, on promoting local produce.
“In the immediate area we operate in, a number of retailers grabbed onto the initiative,” said Don Armock, president of Riveridge Produce Marketing, Sparta, Mich.
Riveridge will be using the Michigan Apple Committee’s quick-locks for its local products.
The commission also developed a section of its Web site for grower profiles to tell the stories of the state’s apple growers.