COVID-19 throws up unwelcome roadblocks for apple marketing

COVID-19 throws up unwelcome roadblocks for apple marketing

Not surprisingly, many marketers said the lack of in-person engagement has been the biggest drawback of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But while the end of the pandemic would be the best tonic for marketers, many say they are doing their best to make lemonade out of lemons.

The inability to be in front of key decision makers is a drawback, said Dan Davis, director of business development for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Starr Ranch Growers.

“We’ve pivoted to digital engagement and are making due with that until it is safe and prudent to conduct in-person meetings,” Davis said.

In-person calls to retailers and conferences have been replaced by online communications, said Cynthia Haskins, president and CEO of the New York Apple Association, Fishers.

The pandemic has been a very challenging time to introduce managed apple varieties into the market place, said Brenda Briggs, vice president of sales and marketing for Rice Fruit, Gardners, Pa.

“But we are taking this opportunity to focus more on social media to connect with buyers and consumers; we are exploring new ways to offer sample items to the online shopper, and using the demand for packaged items to feature our Kiku, EverCrisp and Ambrosia. Managed varieties do very well when they have the packaging to tell their story, and we are using that opportunity to connect with the consumer and tell our story.”

The inability to have in-person events during the pandemic has limited opportunities to promote new varieties, said Kristi Harris, marketing manager for Elgin, Minn.-based Honeybear Brands.

“Sampling is a key component, especially in creating fans of newer varieties like Pazazz,” she said. “We pivoted to include samples in retailers’ online orders and outreach from our influencers.”

The tight availability of labor caused by the COVID-19 pandemic makes it harder for some retailers to build prominent apple displays, said Brianna Shales, marketing director at Stemilt Growers, Wenatchee.

Along that line, Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing for Yakima, Wash.-based Sage Fruit, said COVID-19 has resulted in the inability to get into the stores and see the merchandisers that create beautiful apple displays. 
“We normally work with them hand in hand. We have adjusted by having many Zoom calls.”

Angela Sommers, marketing director for Belding, Mich.-based BelleHarvest Sales Inc., said the pandemic created great demand for packaged produce. 

“The supply chain for bags was stretched thin at times, creating some issues with upcoming promotions,” she said. 

“As an organization we had to pivot to meet demand and find other solutions.”

The inability to hold in-store demos and grower events or activities has been a setback, said George Harter, vice president of marketing for CMI Orchards, Wenatchee.

“We feel driving trial of new varieties and allowing consumers to get to know their taste preferences in order to get them to ‘trade up’ in the apple category.”