The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Folsom, Calif., works with communications agency Lewis & Neale Inc., New York, to encourage blueberry consumption.
This summer, the council and the agency are working on multiple promotions designed to reach a broad base of consumers through schools, media and other channels.
During the week of July 12, the council announced its sponsorship of the School Nutrition Association’s National School Breakfast Week 2011, said Ruth Lowenberg, senior vice president of Lewis & Neale and a spokeswoman for the council.
The School Breakfast Detectives-themed campaign will run from January to March, and will culminate in National School Breakfast Week in March. The week’s menu lists pancakes with blueberry topping.
Frozen blueberries are a U.S. Department of Agriculture commodity item that’s available at low cost to schools participating in the National School Lunch Program, so sponsorship of the Breakfast Week is a good opportunity to encourage school food service managers to use more of them.
The agency and council piloted a program with seven schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District to encourage foodservice managers to use more blueberries.
As part of the program, children took home a council brochure, “Get On Board with Blueberries,” which featured child-friendly recipes, games and information, said Kathy Blake, associate vice president of Lewis & Neale and a council spokeswoman.
Blake said they also work with university foodservice directors to develop ways to use more blueberries on their menus.
Mark Villata, the council’s executive director, said another pilot program involved donating blueberry bushes to elementary schools in March and April. Lowenberg said 20 schools received a bush from a local grower who provided planting instructions and other information.
Villata said EatingWell magazine’s website, www.eatingwell.com, is one forum the council uses to reach consumers who are interested in being healthy. The site has more than 700,000 unique visitors per month, he said.
The council sponsored an EatingWell blueberry advertorial that includes serving suggestions and nutritional information.
The advertorial contains a link to the council’s own website, www.blueberrycouncil.org. In June, the council’s website had more than 17,000 unique visitors, Lowenberg said. In mid-July, she predicted July’s number of visitors would be closer to 20,000.
The council also placed banner advertisements in six EatingWell electronic newsletters, Villata said. There also is an editorial piece on the EatingWell webpage “Blueberries Healthy Food Guide” with nutritional information, shopping and storage tips, and recipes.
Social media sites Facebook and Twitter deliver the blueberry message to other audiences. The council’s Facebook page (http://bit.ly/facebookblueberries) had been “liked” by nearly 7,800 people as of mid-July.
The site contains recipes, photos and links to the council’s website, where visitors can enter recipe contests.
The July contest, Kids-Love-Blueberries Recipe Contest, offers a $500 first-place prize and five $250 runners-up prizes for simple kid-friendly recipes. Another contest is planned for September, but the theme hadn’t been determined as of mid-July, Lowenberg said.
The council’s Twitter account, blueberry411, had about 1,200 followers as of mid-July. The recipe contests also are announced on Twitter.
“We’re trying to create a buzz in social media through a variety of ways,” Lowenberg said.
In late May, the council distributed a summer press kit to about 800 lifestyle and food editors at newspapers throughout the U.S., Blake said. The kit contained a CD-ROM with blueberry resources for journalists, including recipes and a photo library.
The CD is updated annually with new recipes, information and photos, Lowenberg said. By July, there had been 150 related placements in print versions of newspapers.
“We expect 10 (million) to 15 million impressions from one press kit,” she said.
The council also is a sponsor of a television and radio media tour of 11 major metropolitan areas, including Minneapolis, Chicago, Phoenix and Denver.
The theme for the tour is “Lighten up Your Summertime BBQ,” Lowenberg said. A pair of registered dietitians goes on air to prepare barbecue-themed recipes, including a blueberry parfait. Lewis & Neale does press outreach year-round on behalf of the council, Blake said.
The council recently started a promotion with McCormick & Schmick’s seafood restaurants, Villata said. The 88-unit chain from through Sept. 30 features a blueberry cocktail and blueberry cheesecake as seasonal specials, Blake said. The council’s logo is on table tent signs advertising the items and on menu inserts.
Lewis & Neale also works on behalf of the council with dining services companies such as New York-based Restaurant Associates, a subsidiary of foodservice company Compass Group, The Americas Division, Lowenberg said.
Restaurant Associates operates corporate and educational cafeterias in major metropolitan areas, including those at the Washington, D.C.-based The World Bank Group, New York-based Morgan Stanley, and the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., Blake said.
The agency also worked with dining services company CulinArt Inc., Plainview, N.Y., to get blueberries onto menus for about 125 business or education facilities across the country, Blake said. CulinArt celebrated July as Blueberry Month by adding blueberry items to its menus, Lowenberg said.
The council is a mandated national research and promotion program for the U.S. blueberry industry. In addition to promoting blueberries directly to consumers, it also targets promotions to the export market and to food manufacturers, Villata said.