Retailers should consider kids heading back to school after their holiday break as they make their winter merchandising plans as well as health and the holidays that are part of the season.
“One way to see growth in apple sales for retailers is to focus on kids,” Diane Smith, executive director, Michigan Apple Committee, says. “Apples are a nutritious and easy snack. Have sizes and packs that are geared toward kid size. Start an apple club for kids so they can try every variety and choose their favorite. These concepts also create great social media content.”
Indeed, kids can help get parents thinking about the nutritional benefits of apples for the whole family.
“Health messaging is always effective,” Smith says. “Apples are a symbol of health, and the Michigan Apple Committee has plenty of resources for retailers to use to emphasize that. In addition, involving kids is helpful. Cross-merchandise with other kid-centric products.”
Retailers who provide shoppers with specific nutritional information may have a merchandising advantage. However, consumers have to identify with that information, so informing them about what apples can do for their health can give them something more to think about.
Apples provide heart benefits, are a good source of dietary fiber and provide antioxidants, Smith says.
“Apples contain the antioxidant epicatechin which may lower blood pressure and has been linked to a lower risk of stroke with high intakes,” she says. “Apples may also help lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Michigan Apple Committee has a great deal of information on health benefits of regular apple consumption at www.MichiganApples.com/Healthy-Living.”
Apples can be “likened to superfoods as they are so full of nutrients, “ Kaari Stannard, president and CEO of Yes! Apples, Glenmont, NY, says. “Apples are packed with important nutrients. From Vitamin B to antioxidants, which help ward off diseases, eating apples year-round can help people maintain a healthy diet. Apples are also a rich source of iron and help stimulate red blood cell count. Leave the skin on to increase the health benefits of eating an apple.”
Even if apples aren’t quite a seasonal fruit, time of year can have an effect on sales and provide opportunity for merchandising and promotional initiatives
“While apples are a year-round fruit, there is an opportunity to give them an appearance of being seasonal during the winter,” Chuck Sinks, president, sales and marketing at Sage Fruit Co., Yakima, WA, says. “With several holidays falling between November and January, most of which are known for gatherings and fine foods, an apple display showcasing their versatility can help boost overall sales. Whether consumers are baking, creating snack boards or just needing a quick, refreshing bite, there are numerous varieties that can meet their needs.”
So, he says, even if fall is known as ‘apple season’ because that’s when they are harvested all seasons are technically apple season. Advancements in technology allow the produce industry to provide high-quality products all year long.
Sinks says Sage Fruit is ready to help retailers to position apples in a way appropriate to their customer base
“All varieties have some sort of promotional opportunities during the winter months,” he says. “We can customize by retail partner needs. We do offer in-store signage, as well as point-of-purchase display bins and unique, high-graphic packaging.”
Although season plays a role in apple demand, Smith said retailers need to be careful about how they merchandise in the winter time frame.
“Apples should not be positioned as seasonal fruit,” Smith says. “They are available year-round. Consumers want produce when they need it. It’s easy for apples to be a shopping cart staple due to reasonable pricing, year-round availability, and consistent quality.”
At the same time, she says, retailers can do well promoting available local apples.
“There is no specific hard cut off on promoting local apples,” Smith says. “Local produce contributes to the regional economy, arrives at the store sooner, and saves on freight costs which in turn is better for the environment by conserving less fuel and emissions. Locally grown is of great value to most consumers who are interested in freshness as well as boosting their local farmer and their region’s economy.”
The proximity of grower to store is a nice basis of merchandising apples, Trish Taylor, marketing manager, Riveridge Produce Marketing, Sparta, MI says, and retailers can make that link through signage and other means.
“They can position apples as local. Apples are one of the few types of produce that is available year ‘round in the United States. Apples are something to celebrate with their nutritious attributes, on-the-go accessibility and great flavor year-round.”
Apples are a year-round favorite of many. Emphasizing late season apples may be one way to help consumers consider purchasing more of them during the winter.
Although strategies are diverse when it comes to moving apples, core merchandising and marketing principles remain intact, including conspicuous abundant displays and circular promotions. Retailers should reevaluate how they approach apples at a time of unsettled consumer shopping patterns.
Sinks says, “Sales strategies that have worked to move more apple volume at the retail level include digital ads, in-store displays and providing educational information to consumers. As far as the winter season goes, there are several other commodities that are hitting their peak season in the produce department, which may affect movement. However, all of the items are very complimentary of one another and are often purchased in the same basket.”
Flavor, price and the healthfulness of apples converge to make apples almost universal in their appeal, Sinks says. “The key apple consumer is anyone who visits the grocery store, whether it be in-store or through online shopping. Our goal is to reach as many households as possible because apples are nutritious and affordable.”
Sinks cautions that, with more options and opportunity to use the range of choice in the apple category to reach consumers, retailers need to help consumers explore and make choices.
“With the number of new varieties on the retail shelf, consumers can become overwhelmed,” he says. “Providing them with information such as flavor profile, best uses and similarities to other varieties can be helpful and encourage them to try something they haven’t in the past.”
Stannard sees online promotion as key in creating momentum for new apple varieties.
“Highlighting newer varieties is something we try to do on our website. We hope that by introducing consumers to varieties they may not be as familiar with, that will help drive retail demand for those, as well,” Stannard says.