Healthy attributes, along with convenience factor, offer consumers added appeal.
American consumers are looking for delicious, healthy, easy-to-eat fruits – and can find all of that and more in dried apricots.
“Fruit is no doubt an important part of nutrition, and dried fruit products like dried apricots provide an easy, convenient, delicious way to consume more fruit,” says Mari Rossi, the owner, along with her husband Jim and their son, Brian, of B & R Farms, LLC, a grower and producer of Blenheim apricots in Hollister, CA.
With the new FDA nutrition-label regulations that require an added sugar statement, Rossi says this is an “important time to highlight that dried apricots contain no added sugar, making them a good substitute for sugary candy and children’s snacks.”
Despite their positive attributes — apricots are naturally sweet, gluten-free, rich in dietary fiber, potassium and antioxidants — they often are not given the same treatment in produce sections as other fruit, or even some dried fruit. To truly capitalize on their potential and generate sales, retailers must think differently about how they can promote and display these powerfully healthy fruits.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Patrick Batcheller, sales director for Great Lakes International Trading, Inc., in Traverse City, MI, suggests dried apricots need to be visible. “Too many retailers stick them in shadow boxes or knee knockers. If they can put them in a dedicated spot with raisins, cranberries, nuts and other dried fruit, sales will increase.”
Jeff McLemore, vice president of North American Marketing for Sunsweet Growers Inc. in Yuba City, CA, agrees.
“Apricots are a popular promotional display item, since they respond well to impulse buys,” he says. “They can sometimes be placed near other snacking fruits such as apples, or grouped with other healthy snack items, or on a shelf set with other dried fruits, adjacent to produce.”
Often, materials in the form of recipes, shippers, social media support and more are provided to retailers in order to support dried apricot sales. “We put recipes on all of our retail packs, and our consumers love it. We also love doing shippers, especially large pack, club-style pallet shippers. The product moves in that configuration even at traditional grocery stores.”
Shrink, space and overall visibility remain challenges for retailers, although as Batcheller points out, “The shrink is basically zero.” As for apricots’ health benefits, Batcheller points out that, “Probably the biggest ones are organics and naturals.”
The biggest consumers of dried apricots, Batcheller notes, remain “health-focused consumers — the same folks who would rather snack on nuts and fruit than potato chips.”
Batcheller says retailers need to know “lots of suppliers hide cheap fruit in windowless bags. Often, the fruit is hard and dry. Fresh dried apricots should have a softer texture and robust flavor.”
Retailers also should not be afraid of larger pack sizes, he adds. “Trying to drive the weight down to meet a price point is useless, unless you’re a dollar store. The customer gets home and there are six pieces of fruit in a bag, and they feel ripped off — for good reason.”
EASY TO FIND
Like Batchellar, McLemore concurs that among the biggest challenge faced by retailers when marketing apricots is “making sure they are easy to find for the consumer, and not hidden on a bottom shelf.”
Cross-merchandising displays must also be prominent. “Apricots pair well with nuts, so it would be great to have some side stacks near the nut section or holiday nut displays.”
Retailers are touting apricots primarily as a healthy snack, according to McLemore, but they also have value when paired smartly with other non-produce items at certain times of the year. “During the holidays, they are promoted along with other baking ingredients for breads and cookies. Consumers enjoy apricots for making their own trail mixes, or overnight oats,” he says.
Apricots have seasonality around the winter and spring holidays, says McLemore, “so displays to drive impulse purchase are important.” Sunsweet’s 6-ounce pouch and 16-ounce canister are top-selling items. The company also recently launched Apricot Fruit Packs, a convenient portion for on-the-go snacking and only 50 calories per pack. “We also work with popular social media influencers who showcase recipe demonstrations and snacking ideas on YouTube,” says McLemore.
Looking forward, Batcheller says he and his colleagues see dried apricots being incorporated into more mixes and value-added snack products, which increases awareness and consumption. “On-the-go snacking and innovative flavors are No. 1 today, and for the foreseeable future.”