The California Strawberry Commission, Watsonville, is doing radio advertising on a trial basis.

The commercials, which began in early July, air in three markets said Chris Christian, vice president of marketing: Dallas; Charlotte, N.C.; and Seattle.

The commission worked with retailers to permit them to add tags at the end of the commercials, she said. Tags are usually five seconds long and provide store or chain identification.

“We want to see how we can influence sales and develop incremental sales in those markets,” Christian said. “It’s not something we do routinely on a continual basis, but we’re hoping to stimulate demand in the summer.”

There is no fear the radio advertising will result in short supplies of California strawberries.

Through June, the state’s grower-shippers were 15 million trays ahead of 2008 production during the same period, Christian said.

“It’s a very good sign that consumers recognize that strawberries and all berries are good to eat,” she said. “Retail sales have been strong, and I’m pleased to see many restaurant chains promoting strawberry menu items.”

Strong sales growth in New England states has vaulted the region’s ranking into No. 1 in per capita consumption of strawberries, Christian said. Two other regions showing rapid growth are the Southeast and the Midwest, she said.

California is down the list in per capita consumption of the fruit. A reason for the lower ranking, Christian said, could be the abundance of fresh fruit choices greeting shoppers in California markets.

Household income affects strawberry purchases somewhat, according to The Packer’s 2009 Fresh Trends survey. The likelihood of purchasing strawberries is 59% in homes where the annual income was less than $25,000.

The percentage jumps to 69% in households where the income range was $25,000 to $49,999, and up to 73% when household income is $50,000 to $99,999.

Above that range, the likelihood of purchasing strawberries increases to 81%.

The strawberry commission began distributing in July a series of news releases focusing on the nutritional and health benefits of strawberries. More of those releases should distribute in August, Christian said.

The commission’s plans for its booth at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit 2009 convention on Oct 2-5 in Anaheim, Calif., include sharing updated category best practices data with retailers, she said.

Less than two weeks later, the commission staff will be in San Diego, to meet with food editors at the International Foodservice Editorial Council’s annual conference on Oct. 12-15, Christian said.

The staff’s final call to action in October is the American Dietetic Association’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo on Oct. 17-20 in Denver. Chef and author David Grotto will join the staff at the commission’s booth, Christian said.