Tie-in campaigns with other iconic summer brands are at the heart of the Vidalia Onion Committee's "Flavors of Summer" marketing campaign for 2013.
Tie-in campaigns with other iconic summer brands are at the heart of the Vidalia Onion Committee's "Flavors of Summer" marketing campaign for 2013.

VIDALIA, Ga. — After three years of promotions with roots in Hollywood and Nashville, the Vidalia Onion Committee is bringing its 2013 campaign home with a focus on the backyards and patios of the U.S.

The concept of the committee’s “Flavors of Summer” marketing plan is similar to its 2010-12 Shrek and country music campaigns, though, in that it is “spot on with a big trend,” executive director Wendy Brannen said.

“The Food Channel named outdoor kitchens as one of the top food trends in 2012, and there is no indication the trend is ending,” Brannen said. She said 82% of U.S. households already have outdoor grills or smokers, and almost 100% of those who have them use them every year.

This year’s campaign doesn’t have an onion-eating ogre or country music crooners, but it does have quick response codes, food bloggers, tie-in product promotions with some of summer’s most familiar flavors, and a consumer contest with a $5,000 outdoor kitchen as a grand prize.

“It’s an integrated campaign that marries consumer outreach with retail efforts,” Brannen said.

“In the store, the Flavors of Summer campaign grabs the consumers’ attention. Then we pull them into the social media aspects,” Brannen said.

The committee’s Flavors of Summer website is set to go live April 15 — the same day as the Vidalia onion shipping start date. The site will offer consumers recipes, photos of potential tablescapes for outdoor dining, links to Twitter parties with food bloggers and a renewed focus on food via tie-in promotions.

Tie-in partners include Johnsonville Sausage, the National Mango Board, Avocados from Mexico, Stemilt Growers (cherries), Gourmet Garden Spice and the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

Brannen said the committee is paying for targeted advertising in “Cooking With Paula Deen” and Tailgating magazine.

To further the reach of the Flavors of Summer campaign the committee secured Rebecca Lang as a celebrity spokeswoman. Lang is a South Georgia native now based in Athens, Ga.. She writes books and articles about food and has a following on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

“Rebecca is developing a recipe specifically for the Flavors of Summer and will be on tour in select retail markets to demonstrate uses of Vidalia onions,” Brannen said.

Real returns for retailers

To encourage retailers to provide premium space for the 2013 crop, the Vidalia Onion Committee is sponsoring a display contest that will award an iPod to the top retail creation.

Retailers can get free point-of-sale materials and additional information from their Vidalia onion suppliers, Brennan said.

Many Vidalia growers and marketers are participating in the Flavors of Summer campaign, including Bland Farms LLC, Glennville.

The company’s Vidalia onions account for almost one-fourth of the 12,600 acres certified for production this season.

Bland’s director of sales John Cameron said one reason retailers should participate in the promotions is the potential for overall sales increases.

“Retailers should keep a focus on sweet onions year round because consumers who buy sweet onions shop 28% more often and spend 32% more dollars in the store than those who purchase yellow onions,” Cameron said.