Information is integral to merchandise and promoting produce today, something true of even staple products such as apples.
No matter where they shop, Diane Smith, executive director, Michigan Apple Committee, says, consumers need to know enough to differentiate between different elements of the apple offering and find what will suit them best.
“Everyone likes apples, although there may be some geographic or demographic preferences,” she says. “These preferences shouldn’t determine the marketing strategy as a whole. Rather, be sure you are providing information about the product to ensure the consumer is making an informed decision.”
Consumers are changing how they think about food, and that can create opportunity.
‘“One trend that kicks off the year are diets and lifestyle changes,” Trish Taylor, marketing manager, Riveridge Produce Marketing, Sparta, MI, says. “Whole 30 is one program that embraces apples, along with other whole food challenges. Partnering with these programs and piggybacking off hashtags helps to insert your product into the conversation.”
The New York Apple Association is planning a dedicated marketing campaign with a focus on social media.
“Kelly Springer, registered dietitian for NYAA, will appear in several social media posts touting healthy snacking and giving several delicious ways to incorporate healthy snacking and adding apples to a warm bowl of oatmeal, smoothies or freshly blended cup of apple juice,” says Cynthia Haskins, the association’s president and CEO.
Retailers who aren’t doing enough to provide information on apples and promote their benefits “are missing out on potential sales,” Smith says. “Social media is where many consumers get all of their product information. The Michigan Apple Committee can provide retail partners with content that will help them grow their social media presence. Digital coupons also play an important role and should allow the consumer to specify origin of the fruit, as it is so important to consumers.”
Smith emphasizes that today’s consumers “require a lot of information about the products they buy. With so many decisions being made at the store level, the retailer becomes an important gatekeeper of information about the products they sell. Flavor profiles, nutrition information, baking tips and inspiration, as well as information about the growers themselves are key factors in the purchase decision. Michigan Apple Committee can arm retailers with detailed information that will position them as valuable resources for their target customers.”
Yes! Apples is using online means to develop a range of initiatives that provide diverse opportunities.
“One way we’re expanding and growing the business is through our online shop, https://yesapples.shop/,” Kaari Stannard, president and CEO of Yes! Apples, Glenmont, NY, says. “We ship apples directly to consumers across the U.S. We also offer options to send apples as a gift, and we offer gift cards, as well. These efforts also help drive awareness and demand for our retail partners. Yes! Apples is active primarily on Facebook and Instagram. We see social media as a very relevant way to reach consumers. Consumers these days are active on a number of channels, and we like to meet them where they are.”
Indeed, the company is taking a comprehensive approach to digital opportunities, she says.
“We want to provide information if and when consumers would like to learn more. We talk about each variety of apple we offer on our website: https://yesapples.com/apples/meet-our-apples/,” she says. “On our social media channels, we share ways to use apples and incorporate them into various recipes and snacks. Our e-commerce effort, yesapples.shop, is a newer development for us, launched this fall. It provides an additional avenue to introduce consumers to apple varieties they might otherwise not have had the opportunity to try. In this way, Yes! Apples continues to follow its mission of getting apples into the hands of consumers across the country to drive awareness and demand.”
Digital outreach can even introduce products to consumers who haven’t had previous access to them and begin to generate demand where that would otherwise be impossible.
“For example, not everyone has access to some of the specialty varieties like KORU, SnapDragon, Sweetango, and EverCrisp that may have limited distribution,” Stannard says. “Now they can easily order them online to try for themselves. It’s another way we partner with our retail partners to drive awareness and demand so that they can stock appropriately and have a good rate of inventory turnover as consumers buy the product on their shelves. There is a true power in word of mouth: by reaching consumers we build excitement. Those consumers tell others, and before you know it, you have truly created demand.”
Retailers also can provide information about what kind of apples are available in winter and why they store well to promote bigger purchases.
Taylor says, “These areas would be a great opportunity to explain how apples are a perfect storage fruit and how certain varieties can come into their flavor after time in storage such as Evercrisp.”
Social media is a means of educating consumers about varieties and regions, too.
“Also, it provides consumers a way to get to know the growers,” she says. “Most consumers are delighted to know their apples, while bought at a large supermarket, still came from family-owned orchards, some in their 6th and 7th generations.”
Social media has a role, “particularly when educating the consumer about growing practices and how your food goes from farm to table,” Valerie Ramsburg, sales and marketing, Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, PA, says. “We can also utilize it to promote fun ways to incorporate local apples into your everyday diet. We like to offer contests and giveaways to keep our followers engaged and interested in what makes our apples so amazing.”
Brianna Shales, marketing director for Stemilt Growers, Wenatchee, WA, points out, “It’s important that we create pull for apples by marketing to consumers, and specific people that are buyers of apples or could be in the future. We have great stories to share around how our products are grown and where they are grown.”
She observes that social media channels provide suppliers and retailers with a means “to connect with consumers in an authentic way. We need to make sure that we are reaching consumers in a personalized way and helping them understand how apples can fit their needs for health, or convenience, or whatever their driver is.”
Social media is one of the ways retailers, with the support of vendors, can engage customers with their full produce assortment including varieties but also purchasing options, whether bulk or bagged, and how they can get apples from the store to their homes.
“Consumers have lots of choices with apples today,” Shales says. “This means it’s important that we call attention through new flavors and through branded packaging, whether that be branded boxes that new varieties come in, or packaged options. Lil Snappers is our program for kid-size fruit and has helped retailers market to parent shoppers with ease. The bags market to the shopper, are convenient, and the right size profile for families. They also come in the best flavors and a great display-ready carton that makes merchandising easier for time-strapped produce teams.”
“Savvy shoppers these days use “social media to do everything from following trends to buying groceries,” Angie Sommers, director of marketing, Belle Harvest, Belding, MI, says. “While we all interact with social media a little differently, the digital marketing wave we are experiencing is here to stay and the apple industry can benefit greatly from its useful tools. It provides the perfect platform to tell the story of your brand with authenticity and transparency. Find ways to connect with the digital shopper by highlighting the ways your brand provides convenience, value, sustainability, and innovation.”