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Pegi Adam, director of communications for the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council in Clayton, NJ, said in late June that 2010 marks the fifth year the organization has promoted its "Peach Parties" events.

Celebrated during August, which is New Jersey Peach Month, the parties are gaining in popularity each year with retailers, farmers markets and foodservice operators. Although the council is a non-profit, non- governmental agency, it works closely with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to promote the Jersey Fresh locally grown initiative.

"We try to be flexible with our promotional programs," Ms. Adam told The Produce News June 28. "Some participants call their event the 'Peach Party,' while others chose different titles and change the event details, such as including contests and demos. However, they all share the goal of promoting 'Jersey Fresh' peaches."

Participating restaurants, for example, are asked to feature one recipe using New Jersey peaches throughout August -- but some do much more.

"Last year, New Jersey chefs supplied recipes for our promotion, and some demonstrated their dish at farmers markets that held 'Peach Parties,'" she noted. "One restaurant created an entire menu using peaches - from soups and salads to main courses and, of course, desserts -- and ran the menu throughout the month. Another even created a peach-infused cocktail, which was a big hit with patrons."

In 2009, 13 farmers markets and 28 restaurants across New Jersey participated in the August promotion, and Ms. Adam expects even more to join in this year.

Retail interest in the promotional opportunities is also growing each year. In order to strengthen awareness of New Jersey peaches while at the same time give retailers a value-added shopper incentive, the council offers an easy turnkey promotion to benefits stores, shoppers and New Jersey peaches. The promotion includes a shopper drawing for a $25 gift certificate to the store. The council will supply entry blanks with wording that states, "Buy three pounds of 'Jersey Fresh' peaches and fill out the entry blank for a chance to win." Stores can post the entry pad by the Jersey peach bin with brochures, also supplied by the council, stuck into the bins. The council suggests that participating retailers place the promotional banner across the bins.

"Stores will able to download 'Jersey Fresh' peach price cards from the web site and peach recipe cards that can be printed by the stores to each one's specifications," Ms. Adam added. "Entry blanks will include instructions to visit the Peach Promotion Council's web site for recipes and more peach information."

Acme Markets will use the "Peach Party" term in its 2010 campaign at its 65 retail locations throughout southern New Jersey. The stores will offer brochures and recipe books and will display banners in its produce departments.

"Acme will also hold an event on two Saturdays in August at chosen store locations," said Ms. Adam. "The stores will decorate their parking lots, and the 2010 peach queen will be in attendance. Peach samples will be handed out, and there will be a giveaway of a basket of peaches."

Distributors are also on the New Jersey peach promotion bandwagon this year. Bozzuto's Inc., based in Cheshire, CT, is a leading wholesale distributor of food and household products to retailers from New England to Maryland. The company is asking several of its sales representatives to offer the promotion to its customers.

Wakefern, a cooperative that supplies 190 ShopRite grocery stores in the Northeast, has also expressed interest in a turnkey peach promotion this year. Ms. Adam said that as of late June, she still had about 10 additional retailers to visit who have expressed interest in a turnkey promotion.

"Turnkeys are easy for everyone to participate in," she said. "They require limited effort and investment, but they send a strong message to consumers."

Farmers markets are major promoters of Jersey peaches each year, and Ms. Adam said that many put their own spin on their campaign in August.

"Last year, the Collingswood Farmers Market in south Jersey included face paintings," she said. "Participating restaurant chefs did cooking demos, there was music, a story reading of James and the Giant Peach, and the peach queen was there to greet people. This year we expect the promotion to be even stronger, and we may even have Douglas H. Fisher, New Jersey's secretary of agriculture, there to talk about what's so good about Jersey peaches."

New this year, the council will run radio advertisements, and it has issued press releases to media organizations. Ms. Adam said that the council hopes that television networks will support the campaign as strongly as in the past. "Produce Pete did a peach segment on his Weekend Today show on NBC last year," Ms. Adam said, referring to Pete Napolitano.

"Ed Hitzel of Hitzel A La Carte television segment on NBC interviewed chefs on what they are doing for Jersey Peach Month," she added. "Also last year, meteorologist Mike Woods, the WNYW Fox 5 television station weatherman in New York City, came to Jersey City and broadcast the weather report from a farmers market that was having a 'Peach Party.' One participating restaurant prepared a peach tart. Mike interviewed the chef and sampled the tart."

The New Jersey Peach Promotion Council is also trying to provide an umbrella for organizations such as churches. Ms. Adam said that one church group, for example, contacted the council about having a "Peach Party" of its own as a fundraiser.

"These are great venues for promoting New Jersey peaches," she said. "We want to reach out to as many as possible to help them and at the same time help to promote state-grown peaches."

She concluded, "Peaches are being harvested now, and reports are that this year's crop will be abundant and extremely high quality. There will be plenty of New Jersey peaches to support our promotional efforts and for consumers to enjoy."

(For more on New Jersey peaches, see the July 12, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)