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Innovation, category management hallmarks at Chelan Fresh

Chelan Fresh Marketing continues to provide its retail partners with category management expertise designed to increase sales and promote premium product. Serving as a link between growers and retailers, the company — which represents more than 419 growers from its headquarters in Chelan, WA — has been moving quality tree fruit since 2004.

Director of Marketing Mac Riggin said Chelan Fresh also stresses product development and packaging innovation. To illustrate, he said Chelan Fresh is currently developing two new red flesh apples that “will intrigue and delight consumers of all ages.”

Chelan1Chelan Fresh Marketing participates in a number of specific programs, such as the National Football League’s ‘Fuel Up To Play 60’ promotion, designed to increase the sale of fresh produce at retail. (Photo courtesy of Chelan Fresh Marketing) “Our new ‘Cup O Cherries’ provides stem-free cherries in a cup with a reservoir in the lid for the discarded pits,” he told The Produce News. “It’s truly a revolution in convenience when it comes to eating cherries on the go. Our new Rockit apples from New Zealand — packaged in a tube — offer a brand new way to provide healthy and delicious on-the-go snacking.”

Last month, Riggin provided some insights about the 2013-14 apple crop. Looking at the current state of the apple market, he said, “The 2013 U.S. apple crop is the largest on record with Washington state’s crop the second largest on record,” he stated. “Compared to last year, Red Delicious [movement] is about even. Gala is up slightly, Granny up considerably and Goldens and Fuji down considerably.”

He said new varieties such as Honeycrisp are responsible for the incremental volume companies are seeing. “Quality and demand are good, with adequate f.o.b. pricing on most varieties,” he commented.

The category is showing some notable trends. “Apples are showing up in many alternate retail spaces, making them more accessible than ever before,” he continued. “New varieties like Ambrosia, Pacific Rose and Honeycrisp are enticing new customers to the category, with the different tastes and textures they afford. Exclusivity with a new apple variety provides retailers a valuable point of differentiation they use to engage shoppers.”

Riggin said retails can take advantage of tactics which help move product. “Apples are best merchandised on refrigerated space,” he observed. “In an effort to maximize displays and exposure, apples can be displayed on non-refrigerated spaces at the front of the produce department. When temperatures cooperate, retailers can display apples just outside the store, creating a farmers market feel. Apples are great for cross merchandising with many center store items like caramel or peanut butter spreads.”

When asked about techniques that minimize shrink, Riggin replied, “This is a tough question considering the labor challenges at retail. Refrigerated displays are better than non-refrigerated. But not always practical. Display size should hopefully match what a store can sell through in a reasonable period, minimizing the time fruit is not kept cold. Store level staff should consider demoing their shrink, with permission from a supervisor. This can create a shopping experience worth sharing with friends and relatives.”

The company participates in specific programs designed to increase apple sales. “Chelan Fresh is an industry leader in Marketing to Kids,” Riggin explained.

“We offer promotions centered on Disney and the NFL ‘Fuel Up to Play 60’ program. These promotions help moms move the ‘nag’ factor from the candy aisle to the produce department,” he said.

The company also offers complimentary secondary displays to help retailers maximize their produce display footage and location.

“Chelan Fresh has had success partnering with Jif To Go spreads, Laughing Cow cheese and Newton cookies,” Riggin added. “An IRC on our poly apple bags grants consumers up to $1 off their combined purchase. It’s a real win for moms with young children.”