( The Packer )

Kathryn Grandy knew she would be part of something big when she signed on three years ago as the director of marketing for Yakima, Wash.-based Proprietary Variety Management.

Since then, Grandy has been one of the key people paving the way for Cosmic Crisp, an apple expected to turn the industry on its head. The buy-in on this variety has been unprecedented; so many trees have been planted that 450,000 boxes are expected from the 2019 crop, 2.2 million from the 2020 crop and 5 million from the 2021 crop.

With that kind of volume coming, Grandy knew it would not be enough to simply present the apple to retailers. She cited a similar comment from Kroger’s director of produce Randy Riley.

“He really hit it on the head when he said ... ‘The retailers are not your customer. We’re a pass through. Your customer’s the consumer,’” Grandy said. “We at PVM very much believe that.”

In preparation for the launch, Grandy and her peers have been working with many different stakeholders, including Washington State University, growers, packers, shippers, retailers and manufacturers of secondary products like cider and pies.

Lisa Hansen, vice president and general manager of Soquel, Calif.-based McDill Associates, which is working with PVM on the launch, noted that Grandy effectively reaches all those groups.

“I love that she has that really holistic vision,” Hansen said. “She understands that there’s different audiences that she needs to tap into, and she’s really great about knowing what communication styles and what communication platforms work really well for each of those audiences.”

Communicating about the apple with major media outlets has also been a priority, and Grandy’s network of contacts from her years at companies like AT&T and Glacier Bancorp has been invaluable.

“A lot of times companies want to rely on agencies or just other ways to get those relationships to happen, and I think what she’s done differently is she’s really gone out and made those relationships herself,” Hansen said. 

“It’s just the diligence of putting the time in building those relationships.You can’t buy those.”

Grandy said that while she has logged some notable accomplishments over the years, the debut of this new apple variety will likely top the list.

“I really view launching the Cosmic Crisp as a very happy pinnacle in my career,” Grandy said. 

“It’s really bringing together all the disciplines that I’ve worked on in marketing and challenged me to be very creative, very detail-focused, very driven, and I do think to this point we have been very successful.”


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