Promoting this fruit as local and fresh is the linchpin to a successful merchandising program.

“We have signs in our stores in both Michigan and Wisconsin that say ‘support the local apples,’” says Jim Weber, produce director at Brillion, WI-based Tadych’s Markets, an independent chain with six full-service supermarkets in Michigan and Wisconsin.

“We’ll display them next to the caramel apples, and sometimes we’ll have some recipes.”

The peak time for Michigan apple promotion at the Tadych’s stores is the beginning of October.

“Leverage the power of local,” advises Angela Sommers, marketing director at BelleHarvest, Belding, MI. “If we want to have a successful Honeycrisp program, we need to provide the right packaging for every budget. Consumers know the ‘Honeycrisp’ name, and it’s important that we stay consistent with flavor and quality. We also need to carefully consider all the varieties we are offering to consumers because it’s causing confusion at retail.”

Because the brand matters, it is helpful to maintain the supply of Michigan apples over as long a season as possible.

“It’s critical that we keep our local stores supplied with Michigan fruit as long as can,” says Sommers. “The benefits to a retailer, from a freight perspective, are far greater than bringing fruit in from the East or West Coast.”

Shippers help to connect consumers with the Michigan apple growers and their delicious product.

“Our team at Applewood Fresh is constantly updating marketing programs to help propel apple sales,” says Antonia Mascari, vice president of marketing at Applewood Fresh, Sparta, MI. “It’s not just a one-size-fits-all approach; we tailor programs to fit each customer’s needs. To increase sales, retailers need to create large, eye-catching apple displays. It’s important to have signage for each apple — whether it’s an info card with nutrition, creative uses, or the origin of the apple or meet the grower at the point of sale.”

Another important source of promotional help is the Michigan Apple Committee, which gets high marks in this regard from the shippers.

“The committee does a great job of supporting the Michigan apple growers,” says Sommers. “They are working hard each day to ensure that a Michigan apple is in the right place at the right time. The marketing programs they promote are effective and help increase consumption each year. They are always pushing new and innovative ways to reach the retailer and consumer.”

The committee is always looking for original ways to emphasize the geographic origin of the fruit.

“Marketing the fruit with its origin is important to us,” says Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, Lansing, MI.

“Consumers are loyal to Michigan-grown apples, and we feel it is important for them to be informed about where their fruit comes from. We want to help them find Michigan apples.” These consumers are loyal first and foremost to fruit that tastes great, and fruit that has a good mouth feel.