Apple marketers say they’re just beginning to see the marketing boost that social media offers, whether it’s interactive communication with consumers, sharing recipe ideas or linking apples to community events and promotions.

“For us, what’s working is consumer engagement and getting the fans of our apples ready for them before they hit the market and getting them engaged,” said Mark Russell, grower, vice chairman of the board and chairman of the marketing committee with Crunch Time Apple Growers, Wolcott, N.Y.

Crunch Time does that through apple-centric promotions or co-promotions with other produce items or non-produce goods, he said.

There are sponsorships, as well, including the New York City Marathon and other race events.


Consumer feedback

Social media is central to getting to know consumer preferences at Selah, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit Co., said Andy Tudor, the grower-shipper’s business development director.

“What does that mean to you as a consumer? Are you active? Do you cook? Spend time with your family? We engaged with consumers to get them to share what’s to them wholesome to the core, which is our mantra,” he said.

This year, Rainier’s social media program focuses on “Wholesome Heroes,” inviting nominations from retailers and consumers for an individual or program that contributes to betterment of a local community.

The company selects a winner each week and awards a a box of apples, a t-shirt and an engraved desk paperweight to remind the winners of their contributions, Tudor said.

The promotion ties into Rainier’s ongoing sponsorship role in the Boston Marathon, whose theme at this year’s April 16 race is “Honoring Those Who Serve,” Tudor said.

Online engagement with consumers is a fast-growing part of marketing apples, said Alisha Albinder, operations manager for Milton, N.Y.-based Hudson River Fruit Distributors.

“Consumers today want to know about the brand they are buying and about the grower/company that is producing the product,” she said.

Wenatchee, Wash.-based grower-shipper Stemilt Growers LLC is active on social media, as well, said Brianna Shales, communications manager.

“We’ve found great success across our digital efforts and that is because we really try and focus our conversations around the stories of where our fruit comes from and how shoppers can use them in new ways at home,” she said.

The instant communication inherent in social media is a big part of its marketing value, said Brenda Briggs, vice president of sales and marketing with Gardners, Pa.-based Rice Fruit Co.

“Tasting great is really just the first step. It also takes a solid marketing effort, perseverance and patience,” she said.

“With dozens of new varieties in the market, it seems certain only a handful will make their way into the mainstream.”