FRESNO, CA -- The California Table Grape Commission, here, is hoping to form an association in the minds of baseball fans between baseball and California grapes. From Little League to Major League, from players to fans, grapes are the ideal snack at a game, according to Jim Howard, the commission's communications director.
To help make that happen, the commission is launching a foodservice pilot project at the San Francisco Giants' stadium (AT&T Park), working at the ballpark with the foodservice provider which will be offering grab-and-go snack packs of rinsed and de-stemmed grapes in small plastic containers season-long at the Giants' home games.
"It is a case study," Mr. Howard said. "We are tracking the sales numbers" and comparing them with the sales of other fruit and other snack items at the park "so we can get some comparisons."
The commission did a similar case study a couple of years ago with grab- and-go grape snacks at Stanford University in that school's foodservice operations, Mr. Howard said. Data derived from the study were taken to foodservice operators on other campuses to show that "it made a lot of economic sense" for them to offer grapes either as standalone items or "as an alternative to French fries." There were "very solid sales numbers."
The hope and the expectation are that the case study at the Giants' ballpark will yield similar results. Then the commission can take those numbers to the people who run the foodservice concessions at "other sporting venues and special-events venues."
The pilot project is being supported "in a number of ways," Mr. Howard said. "We have a sign behind home plate" that will viewed in rotation with other signs during the game so that the Grapes from California message will appear right behind the batter "in selected innings during the home games." Not only will the sign be visible to the crowd in the stadium, but it also can be seen by fans at home on their television screens.
"We actually kicked [the campaign] off this week," he said May 29. "We had a Little Leaguer from Fresno throw out the first pitch on behalf of Grapes from California. The announcer announced to the whole park that California grapes were now available in the concession stands."
The pilot campaign will tie in with a retail promotion in Northern California during July. It will give consumers a chance to enter "a random drawing to win tickets to a Giants game." For participating retailers, it will give the winner of a retail display contest tickets to a game plus the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a game, he said.
The date Aug. 2 will be "Grapes from California T-shirt day at the park," Mr. Howard added. The first 20,000 fans get a free shirt imprinted with "Grapes from California" and "San Francisco Giants." The shirt is being designed by Giants player Pablos Sandoval. "There will be lots of discussion of grapes on that day," he said. It is also the day that the winner of the retail display contest will throw out the first pitch.
"The sale of grapes at the ballpark, the retail display contest and the T-shirt day are all going to be supported by radio advertising in the region and of course by public relations activities in the region as well," Mr. Howard said. "It is a very comprehensive program, and it is fun. I just think it makes a lot of sense" to have grapes served at baseball games. "Grapes and baseball are a nice fit. The seasons fit well."
Mr. Howard believes that "there is potential in the long term to strengthen that connection between eating grapes and watching or playing baseball. You start at the Major League and you let it trickle all the way down to the Little League. If you have grapes every time when you go to a Giants game, you are far more likely to stock grapes when you go to a Little League game," he said.
With regard to retail promotions, the commission is continuing with the program of putting up starlight billboards in the parking lots of retail stores. "Those are going to go out in 11 different markets around the country, and they only go up if a retailer is willing to increase ... ad activity and to exclusively stock California grapes," Mr. Howard said.
The billboards are "an add-on to the core program which has already begun and runs through the season," he continued. That core program involves magazine advertising and support on traffic radio sponsorships.