WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Most consumers buy berries because they taste good.
But researchers have discovered that berries’ ability to fight the diseases of aging — like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and age-related mental decline — are so great that it makes sense to make the health benefits berries provide a major selling point.
That’s why the fourth biennial Berry Health Benefits Symposium June 27-29 hosted a session titled “Marketing to the Berry Health Message,” where representatives of six berry trade associations and a major berry grower-shipper shared their marketing strategies and discussed what they’re doing to promote the nutritional content of berries.
“The health benefits message is driving the U.S. to higher levels of consumption than ever before,” said Chris Christian, vice president of marketing for the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission.
The commission discovered in 2003 that not much research had been conducted into the health benefits of strawberries and has funded studies and touted their findings ever since.
The commission motivates consumers who are heavy users of strawberries — defined as those who use them from five to 20 times a year — to buy more of them through its interactive website, its Strawberry Nutrition News website, and various other programs, Christian said.
The commission also has gotten good results from posts from mom bloggers, who mention the nutrition value of strawberries, she said. The commission hosts local events for bloggers and has logged as many as 30,000 impressions from a single event.
In fact, all of the berry trade associations say they contact media, bloggers, dietitians and health professionals to help publicize the nutrition benefits of berries, and many make extensive use of social media, especially YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, to reach consumers.
Dole Food Co. Inc. is spreading the word about berries in a new edition of its kids cookbook this summer that features a number of healthful berry recipes, said Jennifer Grossman, senior vice president of the Dole Nutrition Institute.
Dole also disseminates information about berries and its other products through its Facebook page, which now has more than 350,000 followers.
The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Folsom, hopes to build buzz about blueberries with its new brand image Little Blue Dynamos, said Wendy Bazilian, an author and dietitian who represents the council.
The council tries to “keep it personal” by promoting blueberries as a fruit that fits consumers’ lifestyles and is appropriate for any kind of meal, she said.
The Corvallis-based Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission promotes its products by developing a connection between consumers and growers, said Cat McKenzie, marketing director and symposium administrator and conference coordinator.
The commission keeps up on the latest research and holds an annual Oregon Berry Camp — an extensive close-up look at the berry industry for the media.
The Cranberry Institute, Carver, Mass., also tries to “influence the influencers,” said Martin Starr, science adviser. The institute focuses on cranberries’ positive effect on urinary tract infections.
The processing segment also was represented at the session.
“We are inside other products,” said Susan Davis, registered dietitian, nutrition adviser and spokeswoman for the Wild Blueberry Association of North America, Old Town, Maine.
She traced how blueberries “went from a ho-hum fruit to something exciting” following the revelation in the mid-1990s that the berries outperformed other fruits and vegetables in the ORAC — Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity — measurement.
Tom Krugman, promotions director for the Washington Red Raspberry Commission, Lynden, which represents processors, listed five reasons to eat raspberries, including that they were listed among the top 15 best antioxidant sources by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.