Honeybear helps retailers increase premium apple sales
Even in a "normal" year it can be difficult for retailers to boost their premium apple sales during the holiday season, but add in a global pandemic and changing consumer behaviors, and it becomes that much more of a challenge to create a sound premium apple strategy.
That's where Don Roper, vice president of sales and marketing for Elgin, MN-based Honeybear Brands, steps in. Roper spoke with The Produce News towards the end of December to offer retailers some helpful tips and strategies for delivering a good variety of apples while finding repeat business and success with customers.
"Retailers are having a hard time sorting through what a consumer is really going to like," Roper told The Produce News. "Prior to the pandemic, there was good traction going on with many varieties. One of the key things is in-store demos and promotions. When the pandemic hit, all of a sudden it wasn't about demos and big store promotions took a back seat as the immediate focus was about in-stocks, managing a very disrupted supply chain, keeping stores safe and clean, and making sure customers were comfortable walking down the aisles. This caused a lot of chaos for anyone with new products."
Roper noted that this fear of safety, and desire to get in and out of stores as quickly as possible, led to a trend of consumers mostly purchasing what they already know, opposed to trying new products.
"We found that there was a real big turn by the consumer to go with what they already know," he said. "They purchased products and varieties they already know. That was indicative of our sales data."
In order to get new products in front of consumers, Roper said companies and retailers have to step outside of the traditional new product introduction model or in store demos and big POS promotion materials.
"All of a sudden you have to find more creative ways to encourage shoppers online," he noted. "Product introductions are looking a lot different than in the past."
One of those new ways to draw more attention to products is through increased social media and digital marketing.
"There's a lot more direct-to-consumer marketing that's going on," Roper said. "The retailers are doing a really nice job of that as well. They're working a direct-to-consumer pitch through their own social media platforms and supply partners are developing digital promotions and programs that support pull of products through our retail partners. We are all aware of how impactful social media is on an everyday basis and we find a big key is leaning into these tools to help drive new product purchases and adoption. Social media is a tool that does work."
For example, Roper noted, Honeybear is serving up Facebook and Instagram ads to its target audience of consumers within a five-mile radius of the stores where Pazazz is found on-shelf to drive awareness and direct consumers to its retail partners.
"The campaign itself is playful and cheerful (something we all need) and reminds viewers of the health benefits of eating apples ? particularly the immunity boosting factor," Roper said. "We launched the campaign Dec. 1 and crossed the million mark already with total impressions."
In addition to executing a social media strategy, Roper said Honeybear sees the most success at retail when the digital strategy is complimented with the traditional marketing levers utilized in store by retailers. Three strategic points should be followed: target the varieties you want to win with, put strong repeated promotions in place (both in-store and digital), and utilize pricing strategy that communicates introductory value pricing.
"People aren't going to test an unknown product for too high of a price," Roper said, noting that some premium apple varieties are priced far too high, making it not worth the risk for the consumer. When premium apples are priced closer to, but still slightly above, main line varieties, they tend to see better success.
Roper likes to sit down with retailers ahead of time to put together a robust plan for promotions and pricing, and suggests promoting each new variety for three to four months to drive adoption and repeat purchases This also gives the retailer a real good chance to evaluate the success of the variety.
"Success for new varieties happens when retailers commit to a promotional program for the course of the season," Roper said. "Give each variety three to four months, go hard with the messaging, create multiple impressions. By that point in time, the consumer will have seen that variety dozens of times, and will trial the new product, which leads to repeat sales."