Across the Boards

In commodity boards, retailers looking to increase produce sales have many friends to turn to for help.
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Demand. It is what retailers most seek, and what commodity boards within the produce section strive to stimulate.

As marketers for fresh fruits and vegetables, commodity boards have a hard job to do. Finding a new angle to promote these nutritional staples takes creativity and dedication. 

Many commodity boards, aside from the year-round promotions, advertising and research they do, aim to put a face to a fruit or vegetable with field personnel who visit retailers or category representatives in-store to talk to consumers. Most will even offer customized advice store-to-store or region-to-region for an added benefit.

Commodity boards are one of the top resources for category managers looking to boost sales, so it is important that retailers keep well-informed on what new materials and promotions each is offering year-to-year and season-to-season.

Here is a sampling of what just a few of them are doing:

Avocados From Mexico

Avocados From Mexico’s primary focus is creating consumer demand for avocados in the U.S., specifically those from the Avocados From Mexico (AFM) brand. Considering the ever-increasing popularity of the fruit, it would be easy for the Irving, Texas-based organization to sit back—but that is not what happens.

 “We reinforce the brand by focusing on several key development factors: leading consumer avocado brand preference, accelerating the whole avocado category growth, leading the health and wellness conversation for consumers and leading trade excellence in the fresh industry,” says Stephanie Bazan, AFM’s market development director.

In 2017 the specific drive is health and wellness, Bazan adds. AFM kicked off this initiative during the Super Bowl with its TV ad about the good fats contained in avocados.

Aside from TV advertising, Avocados From Mexico runs interactive promotions for consumers throughout the year to keep interest up. In the first month of 2017 AFM started off with its Guac Nation promotion focusing on snacks and party foods from Avocados From Mexico and Old El Paso.

 The Fanwich promotion, which began Feb. 13, is designed to encourage consumers to add avocados to sandwiches, burgers and other handheld meals during the basketball championship season in March. The promotion ends March 26.

Through March 31 the Rise, Shine & Energize breakfast partnership program is happening as well. AFM, MilkPEP and the American Egg Board are working together to raise awareness of nutritious breakfast meals featuring avocados, eggs and milk.

 “The program is designed to increase consumption and drive purchase frequency of eggs, milk and avocados during breakfast,” Bazan says. “The program will assume a four-pronged marketing approach: Catalina in-store print and load to card coupons offering $1.50 or $2 off eggs and avocados, News America shelftalk banners and floortalks to drive cross-category awareness, AFM avo-egg racks, and digital and social paid media.”

Chilean Fresh Fruit Association

The Chilean Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) markets the fresh fruit exported from Chile to the U.S. and Canada. This includes, but is not limited to, citrus, blueberries, peaches, other stone fruits and cherries.

“We keep the importer, wholesaler and retail community updated on the latest happenings with Chilean fruit and also maintain a strong, ongoing line of communication with the Chilean growers and exporters, keeping them informed of market trends and opportunities,” says Karen Brux, managing director of the CFFA.

The San Carlos, Calif.-based Association varies its focus from season to season. From November through March, it works to keep blueberries top of mind for the consumer. “One of our key objectives is to remind consumers that they can continue enjoying fresh blueberries in the winter, courtesy of Chile,” Brux adds.

Types of promotions that can take place year-round include digital coupons, demonstrations, display contests, Instagram giveaways and TV ad sponsorships. Currently, the CFFA is sponsoring 40 kids’ cooking classes in a large Hispanic retail chain.

“We have three merchandisers throughout the U.S. and Canada that spend every day connecting with retailers big and small and developing custom, tailored promotions,” Brux says. “Our main focus is on working with retailers to generate stronger sales of Chilean fruit.”

National Watermelon Promotion Board

The singular objective of the National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB), according to Juliemar Rosado, director of retail operations and international marketing for the NWPB, is to increase consumers’ demand for watermelon through promotion, research and educational programs.

In 2017, the Winter Springs, Fla.-based organization will focus on the field of retail dietitians as a way to educate consumers on the benefits of watermelon.

“Supermarket retail dietitians continue to be an influential audience to educate consumers on nutrition,” says Rosado. “The 2016 consumer research conducted indicated that more than half of those surveyed were not aware of watermelon’s health benefits, yet 73.5 percent replied they would purchase watermelon in the future if they knew it was healthy and nutritious for them.”

The NWPB spreads education through Watermelon Queens, ambassadors that are sponsored by different state and national watermelon associations. The program includes eight state and one national Watermelon Queen, each responsible for promoting watermelon in their area, participating in promotions at grocery retailers, media interviews and more.

The organization’s annual watermelon display contest will take place again this year. In the months of July and August, retail chains, independent retailers and commissaries can create displays showcasing the benefits of watermelon to win prizes worth more than $10,000.

“With a category item like ours, good merchandising is important because it confirms value, health and versatility of our product which also happen to be some of the primary drivers for watermelon sales,” Rosado adds.

Idaho Potato Commission

The Idaho Potato Commission (IPC), the marketing arm for the Idaho potato industry, is one commodity board that is well known by retailers and consumers alike. The Eagle, Idaho-based commission has been around now for 80 years, creating value behind the Idaho potatoes brand.

The IPC achieves this through its consumer- and retailer-focused marketing promotions, like the annual sponsorship of the Idaho Potato Bowl every December and the Big Idaho Potato truck.

The Big Idaho Potato truck started out as a 75th anniversary promotion for the IPC, and is now going into its sixth year of touring the country spreading awareness about Idaho potatoes, interacting with consumers nationwide and stopping at major events like the Kentucky Derby or NASCAR races.

“We’ve done 20,000 miles or more around the U.S. and been to 500 or 600 cities, and often stop at retailers,” says Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail/international for the IPC. The tour generally runs for six to seven months per year, weather permitting. The truck is scheduled to hit the road again in either March or April.

On the retailer side, the IPC’s annual Potato Lover’s Month retail display contest grows larger and larger each year—more than 5,000 stores are expected to enter between January 16 and March 17. Instead of the typical cash prize, the IPC has upped the stakes and winners are being treated to a Caribbean cruise. This prize is worth two and a half times the cash prize, Pemsler says.

Alongside Potato Lover’s Month the IPC is running a jumbo bin promotion. “We are offering retailers the opportunity to buy the jumbo potatoes in bags in bins and get a rebate. We’re running this the same time as Potato Lover’s Month because the sheds have so many excess big potatoes,” Pemsler adds.

In addition to its many promotions, the market research done by the IPC is another value the commission offers to retailers. Most recently, it conducted a study based on two years of IRI data that shows Idaho potatoes are less price sensitive than non-Idaho potatoes. “As Idaho potatoes go up in price, consumers will still pay,” Pemsler says. “They are more focused on the premium brand. This is important for retailers because they don’t have to match all competitors’ prices.”

New York Apple Association

The New York Apple Association (NYAA) is the marketing order for New York State apples. The Fisher, N.Y.-based association is funded by the growers of New York State in order to promote its products and provide grower communications and consumer research.

The organization was formed in 1959, and its main goals remain consistent. They are, says Molly Zingler, marketing director for the NYAA, to “keep New York State apples in front of retailers and their customers, to facilitate and promote consumption of New York apples and apple products, showcase the many proven apple varieties and introduce new varieties to the market place.”

Zingler says that the organization works with retailers on customized marketing and promotions, including consumer and trade advertising and media outreach.

“Our job is to assist our industry market apples and apple products to retailers and direct markets by promoting the many benefits to both consumers and wholesale markets, and providing resources to help showcase and market our state’s products,” says Cynthia Haskins, NYAA president and CEO. “New York’s climate and soil are perfect for apple growing, and our growers produce a wide range of apple varieties and high-quality fruit.”

One of the emphases of the NYAA is year-round promotion of apples, a fruit that many relegate to the fall. Partnering with retailers that want to highlight New York State apples at non-traditional times of the year for promotions and dedicated shelf space is important, says Haskins.

Pear Bureau Northwest

The Pear Bureau Northwest (PBNW) represents more than a thousand growers from Washington and Oregon—each with an average of 50 acres per orchard. That gives its USA Pears brand plenty of fresh produce to market each year.

“We work directly with retailers to identify their opportunity gaps in the pear category, building programs, promotions, training and support customized to help them compete for the shopper’s dollar,” says Kathy Stephenson, PBNW’s marketing communications director.

The Portland, Ore.-based non-profit organization works to develop and support both national and international markets. The season kicks off in July as the first pears are ready to be harvested, and lasts well into the spring.

“Our work focuses with retailers to keep pears in the front of the displays in the produce department, promote secondary displays with other complementary ingredients and building promotions to support these late season sales,” Stephenson says.

During February (National Heart Month), and March (National Nutrition Month), PBNW is conducting a Health and Nutrition Display Challenge with retailers focused on promoting pears’ health benefits. This includes a heart-healthy check off from the American Heart Association for Anjou, Bartlett and Bosc pears. 

The PearUP! Initiative is also still active, as retailers and other pear providers make efforts to cross-market pears with complementary products including cheese, bagged salads, nuts and more, Stephenson adds.

PBNW’s retail marketing managers work with retailers to create custom goals and find opportunities for each to grow pear sales. “We share information about our fresh pear consumer, showing that displaying pears and conditioned pears will increase the satisfaction of the most desired shoppers, Stephenson says. “Younger, Millennial shoppers are the heaviest consumers of pears and are most likely to shop where the produce department is fresh, full and varied.”

Potatoes USA

Potatoes USA does not limit its efforts to the states—the organization works to increase demand for U.S. grown potatoes both domestically and around the world. Potatoes USA’s marketing efforts extend to fresh, frozen, dehydrated, refrigerated and deli potato offerings.

Potatoes USA works with retailers on their potato assortments, merchandising and promotions to ensure each is as effective as it can be in fostering demand for potato products.

“We work with retailers to help them optimize their potato assortment, train their staff and enhance their merchandising and promotions efforts,” says Ross Johnson, global marketing manager for Potatoes USA. “Through retail associate training we help ensure potatoes are stored and handled properly so retailers can offer the best selection.”

Through a variety of social media marketing, public relations, videos and print advertising efforts, the Denver-based organization works off of what it refers to as potato inspiration. “This media mix allows us to inspire consumers to buy potatoes at all stages of the buying process.”

Johnson says that Potatoes USA provides
leadership and funds to facilitate better research on nutrition and potato varietal development. “Potatoes continue to be an increasingly relevant part of consumers’ ever-changing lifestyles and eating habits,” Johnson adds


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