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Washington Jazz apples focus of major Oppenheimer campaign

by Kathleen Thomas Gaspar | December 14, 2009
A major promotion focused on Washington-grown Jazz apples is targeting consumers in specific U.S. markets, according to David Nelley, manager of The Oppenheimer Group's pipfruit and pineapple category.

Oppenheimer is the exclusive distributor of Jazz, a sweet-tart cross between the Royal Gala and Braeburn varieties bred by ENZA growers in New Zealand and introduced to North American consumers in 2002. Jazz apples have garnered a following as "Apples with Bite," and in their fourth season of commercial production in Washington state, are getting an even edgier message to consumers.

"Cheat on Your Chocolate" and "Fool Around on Your Fries" are two catch phrases being used in the latest campaign, which Mr. Nelley said was introduced in mid-November in Boston; Seattle; Portland, OR; Los Angeles; New York; and Minneapolis.

One segment of the campaign involves just Boston, where Mr. Nelley said Oppenheimer started "with the basics."

He explained that the Vancouver, BC-based produce distribution giant's category-management techniques allow for identifying potential product consumers through their Zip codes.

In the Boston area, "Radio and billboard advertising is being used," Mr. Nelley said, adding that Jazz is being promoted for its healthy snacking attributes. The Boston campaign was slated to run through mid-December, and Mr. Nelley said, "If it goes well, we'll expand it."

Also in mid-November, the company launched a sampling campaign, taking bites of Jazz straight to consumers. Rather than typical supermarket settings, Oppenheimer and Jazz ambassadors are sampling the apple at community events in Seattle and Portland as well as in Southern California, Boston and Minneapolis.

"We're going through mid-December and will sample again from mid- February through mid-March," he said. More traditional samplings in supermarkets will be carried out to tout the convenience of the "Jazz Snacker," a pack that holds a three-pound consumer bag of apples.

Oppenheimer will also be reaching out through trade ads and consumer public-relations campaigns in smaller regional newspapers, he continued. "And we're making use of the electronic media, with Twitter and Facebook and the web site," Mr. Nelley said, calling the campaign "guerilla marketing.

He added, "We are building domestic demand for Jazz, which is still a new apple for this market. We know we have a lot of consumers to reach."

Jazz aficionados say that to taste the apple is to love it. "It is very firm and crunchy," Mr. Nelley said. "The flavor is sweet-tart, and it stands up very, very well at room temperature, staying crunchy. And this apple actually gets sweeter."

Mr. Nelley said that the 2009 crop, which came in slightly smaller than growers expected, will see a half-million boxes of Jazz distributed primarily in North America. Sizes are peaking on 100s, he noted.

Interestingly, the Pacific Rose, another New Zealand-bred apple now being grown in the Northwest, came in slightly larger than anticipated, and apples are peaking on 80s and 88s.

Mr. Nelley said that organics are available in both varieties this season.