Consumption events key to CAC promotions

Avocados have become a year-round staple for many consumers, but the top consumption holidays of the year are still very important merchandising opportunities.

In 2014, the marketing promotions surrounding Fourth of July resulted in the United States consuming 109 million pounds of avocados during that holiday period. At the time that became the greatest avocado-consumption event for U.S. consumers ever recorded. Promotions surrounding this year’s Super Bowl, which was played Feb. 1,summerThe California Avocado Commission is gearing up for that Fourth of July promotional period with display materials and promotional ideas. saw consumption of 122 million pounds, creating a new record. No doubt handlers of avocados will try to once again top that record for Fourth of July 2015, which falls right in the middle of the California avocado season. To put those numbers in perspective, that means those largely weekend events are seeing as many avocados consumed nationwide in a few days as were consumed in eight to 10 weeks just 20 years ago.

The California Avocado Commission is gearing up for that Fourth of July promotional period with display materials and promotional ideas. The holiday coincides well with the commission’s strategy of the last several years to emphasize consumption events and new usage ideas to consumers. CAC touts those party-inducing events because avocados have proven to be a great accompaniment to any gathering as guacamole or for snacks or even for grilling.

Because of the mild 2014-15 winter that California avocado growers experienced this year, the fruit has sized earlier and some of the state’s growers were able to capitalize on the promotions surrounding the Super Bowl and provide retailers with fruit in January. That isn’t always the case. For example, in 2014 the crop was basically marketed from March through September. But this year, marketing has been moved up about a month with most of the California fruit expected to be sold during the February through August time frame, though there were some sales in January as previously mentioned. Most of those sales were to several California retailers that featured California avocados in their “big game” advertising and promotional displays.

CAC sponsored sales and display contests for the late January and early February time period, and provided extra incentives to motivate in-store personnel to get behind the sale and promotion of California avocados. In Northern California, Mollie Stone’s, a small, upscale chain of nine stores, conducted a California avocado display contest. The chain did promote the fact that they were the first retailer in the area to carry California avocados.

Gelson’s Markets, a similar type of retailer with 12 stores in the Los Angeles market, also carried California avocados for its promotions leading up to Super Bowl weekend. The chain developed a sales contest, with supporting ads and displays, and reported excellent sales increases. Several other regional chains also carried California fruit during that time period and promoted it as such.

CAC supported the early-season promotions with California avocado display bins and signage, and sponsored the prizes for the account contests. The commission also utilized a tightly targeted social media campaigns with geo-fencing to promote these promotions to local consumers. For example, using geo-fencing, CAC identified consumers within a seven-mile radius of Mollie Stone’s locations and targeted them with California avocado advertisements.

In some ways, the late January promotion was a dry run for CAC’s planned efforts during its marketing period. There are several upcoming holiday consumption events when featuring California avocados makes perfect sense, including, Easter, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day and the aforementioned Fourth of July. Some years the end of the summer Labor Day Weekend also is cause for celebration and the utilization of California avocados. This year it remains to be seen just how many California avocados will be left to market at the end of summer. If consumers eat them up as the current trend indicates, there will be few left… though still plenty of avocados from other points of origin to fuel a Labor Day Weekend promotion.

SunSelect enters B.C. season with strong crops and momentum

Powered by a robust first winter of production from its new California facility, leading British Columbia greenhouse grower SunSelect Produce has entered the Canadian season ready to drive sales.

The Aldergrove, BC-based grower began shipping new-crop cucumbers and sweet Bell peppers in mid-March, with production expected to extend through late fall. As BC's largest red, yellow and orange pepper producer, expectations are high for consistent volumes and quality throughout the season.

SunSelect is the only Fair Trade-certified pepper grower in Canada, offering a unique opportunity for retailers to differentiate and satisfy their most discerning customers. Fair Trade premiums earned on SunSelect peppers benefit worker communities in both Guatemala and Canada.

Meanwhile, peppers and tomatoes grown in SunSelect's new greenhouse in Tehachapi, CA, will continue shipping to key markets in the western United States and Canada. Much of this product is also earmarked for strong local "grown in California" consumer programs, according to Len Krahn, SunSelect co-owner and general manager.

"The mild winter has positioned us well with strong plants poised for solid production out of BC," Krahn said in a press release. "At the same time, we can continue to serve our customers south of the border with the high-quality peppers and tomatoes we are producing in California, which are ideal for locally grown promotions."

SunSelect opened the doors to its high-tech 32-acre California greenhouse last October. Tehachapi is proving to have an excellent climate for greenhouse production. Low humidity, cool nights and high light levels each play a huge role in producing consistent quality and sizing, Krahn said.

As well, the climate is conducive to growing in a positive pressure greenhouse, as opposed to using roof vents, because pest populations in the area are naturally low.

Success to date has prompted SunSelect to accelerate the expansion of the facility. The next phase will entail an additional 32 acres of sweet Bell peppers, tomatoes-on-the-vine, a diversified mix of specialty tomatoes and innovative value-added packaging. Production will begin this fall.

The Oppenheimer Group is SunSelect’s marketing partner and an investor in its B.C. and California greenhouses. Oppenheimer’s executive category director-Greenhouse, Aaron Quon, shares Krahn's enthusiasm, saying, "SunSelect is off to an impressive start in Tehachapi. Customers are very receptive to the quality of the product — it delivers everything our retail partners have come to expect from the SunSelect brand, great appearance, vibrant color and excellent flavor."

As well, SunSelect tomatoes-on-the-vine have joined the Sesame Street eat brighter! movement under the Oppy umbrella with truss tags featuring Cookie Monster and Elmo.

Fresh Express launch includes salad kits, expands juicing line

Fresh Express, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chiquita Brands International Inc., has launched eight new products, including a line of Functional Health Salad Kits, as well as expanded offerings to existing lines. These products will be available on shelves starting March 18 nationwide.freshexper

"Consumers today want to be healthier, but they're busier than ever," Bob Stallman, Chiquita's vice president of marketing for salads and healthy snacking, said in a press release. "By continuously offering healthy, new, innovative salad kits, we hope to provide these consumers with more options to be healthy — without having to sacrifice time or taste."

Fresh Express said that its newest line of salad kits, Functional Health Salad Kits, redefine salads by focusing on a specific health need and delivering benefits for it — in the most delicious and convenient way possible. Functional Health Salad Kits are available in Heart Health, Antioxidant and Digestive Health.

Functional Health Salad Kits

  • Heart Health Kit: The Heart Health Kit aims to be as good for consumer taste buds as it is for the consumer's heart. The Heart Health Kit includes ingredients specifically chosen for their health benefits, such as spinach, kale, beet tops, shredded broccoli, shredded carrots, dried cranberries and sliced almonds with basil balsamic vinaigrette that combined qualify the kit as heart healthy, according to the FDA's "Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (11. Appendix C: Health Claims)."
  • Antioxidant Kit: Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E work hard in the body to maintain cell and tissue health. The Antioxidant Kit — with a blend of spinach, baby kale, red cabbage, shredded carrots, feta cheese, sunflower kernels and dried blueberries with pomegranate blueberry vinaigrette — provides an excellent source of vitamins C and a good source of vitamin E.
  • Digestive Health Kit: Fiber helps maintain a healthy digestive system. Women need 25 grams of fiber per day, and men need 38 grams per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. The Digestive Health Kit contains three grams of fiber per serving and features a mix of spinach, baby kale, pak choi, beet tops, shredded carrots, dates, sliced almonds and flaxseed with a sesame ginger dressing.

Juicing Greens Line Expansion:

As more consumers continue to incorporate greens into their smoothies and juices, Fresh Express' Juicing Greens line will expand its offering with three new products: Vitality, Refresh and Organic. The Juicing Greens line provides a nutrient-dense, convenient, and pre-washed way to include greens in juices and smoothies.

  • Vitality: A spring mix, baby kale and shredded carrots.
  • Refresh: Spinach, chard, baby kale and beet tops.
  • Organic: An organic version of the existing Juicing Green classic, Replenish, Organic offers a mix of baby kale and spinach.

In addition to it's Juicing Greens Organic product, Fresh Express another USDA-certified product to its Organic portfolio: Super Greens, a blend of spinach, arugula and chard.

Fresh Express also added a Caesar Kit with Greek Yogurt Dressing. It features Greek Yogurt Caesar dressing, with half the calories and fat of traditional Caesar dressings, and restaurant-style garlic croutons for added flavor and crunch. 

PBH releases new consumer report

Every five years, Produce for Better Health Foundation releases its updated State of the Plate report, a Study on America’s Consumption of Fruit & Vegetables. PBH commissioned consumer research through The NPD Group to use its National Eating Trends database for the year ending May 2014 to examine current consumption of fruit and vegetables in the United States, including consumption levels by age, gender, life cycle, health segmentation, meal occasion and form.pivonElizabeth Pivonka

The report provides the fruit and vegetable industry, health professionals and consumer intermediary groups with the latest fruit and vegetable consumption trends; updated information on the varying demographics of fruit and vegetable consumers; an overview of consumption levels by lifecycle and eater segment; projected growth of fruit and vegetable consumption for the next five years; and recommendations about what can be done to make the information in the report actionable.

Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Trends

Per-capita fruit and vegetable consumption has declined 7 percent over the past five years, primarily driven by decreased consumption of vegetables (-7 percent) and fruit juice (-14 percent). However, there is only a 2 percent decrease in fruit consumption during this same time period if fruit juice is excluded from the overall fruit total.

The overall fruit and vegetable consumption losses are tied to two significant behaviors: a decline in the dinner side dish for vegetables driven by the desire to simplify meals (including side dish salads, which also reduces the use of other salad-related vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers); and reduced consumption of fruit juice at breakfast.

Despite these losses, however, fruit and vegetables are still a cornerstone of the American diet. Vegetables are four of the top five side dishes at the in-home dinner meal, and fruit is second only to candy as a snack.

Shifting Demographics of Fruit & Vegetable Consumers

When looking at age demographics, younger consumers are eating more fruit compared to 2009. Among children ages 2-17, there is a 17 percent increase in fruit consumption, excluding juice. Overall vegetable consumption is down, but store fresh vegetables have grown among children (10 percent) and young adults over the past five years.

While adults ages 50 and older consume the most fruit and vegetables, this group’s double-digit decline was a significant factor in the overall decline of fruit and vegetable consumption since 2009.

A negative generational effect is occurring among these older consumers, which means that those over age 50 are consuming fruit and vegetables less often than their counterparts 10 years ago.

Conversely, a positive generational effect is occurring in those under age 40, meaning they are consuming more fruit and vegetables than their counterparts a decade ago.

Consumption Levels by Lifecycle & Eater Segment

Fruit and vegetable consumption data can be further analyzed to identify if singles, seniors or working women households are eating more or less compared to other lifecycle groups.

Working women (working parents, single female parent and dual income with no children) and traditional family (married with children under 18 years old present; only 1 spouse employed full-time) households are consuming more fruit, but less fruit juice and vegetables, per capita over time.

Only 13 percent of the population are seniors (single or married, male or female head of household, age 65+), yet these households represent 17 percent of all vegetables consumed and 18 percent of all fruit consumed, excluding fruit juice.

Singles (under 65 years old) represent more of the population than seniors, but account for the smallest share of consumption of vegetables or fruit.

NPD also grouped the population into five segments based on varying attitudes. The three consumer segments focused on health account for 60-70 percent of fruit and vegetable eatings, yet only represent half of the total population. All three of these segments, however, have shown the most decline in fruit and vegetable eatings over the last five years.

This is especially disturbing given that people presumably focused either on leading a healthy lifestyle or a health condition appear to be thinking less about fruit or vegetable consumption when it comes to their overall health.

Projected Growth of Fruit & Vegetable Consumption

Considering the aforementioned generational effect, changing life stages and other factors, consumption of total fruit and total vegetables are expected to grow roughly 4 percent, respectively, in the next five years, or roughly the same rate as population growth, resulting in relatively flat per-capita consumption.

Looking at fruit and vegetables subsets, however, there is an expected 9 percent growth in fruit (excluding juice) and an 8 percent growth in fresh vegetables expected in the next five years. Per-capita consumption would be 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

Recommendations to Increase Fruit & Vegetable Consumption

Fruit and vegetable marketers should seize the opportunity to partner with companies who prepare and sell the core food groups most often associated with fruit and vegetables such as beef and poultry protein entrees, salads and Italian dishes.

Yogurt, pizza, poultry sandwiches and Mexican food are also among the fastest growing food items and complement fruit and vegetables nicely.

The health benefits of consuming a variety of fruit and vegetables, varied tastes and textures, and ease of preparation should continue to be emphasized with older consumers as they continue to focus on their overall health and well-being, and their desire to simplify meals.

A final recommendation is to focus on the affordable cost of fruit and vegetables. Since most fruit and vegetables are consumed in the home, it is important to inform consumers that the price of a home-prepared meal is one-third the cost of the average meal way from home.

Encourage price-sensitive consumers to eat more meals at home by showcasing how the purchase of ready-made meals, and other convenience items from the supermarket, are less expensive than eating out.  

“The good news is that we are seeing progress and positive forward-looking trends in fruit and vegetable consumption among consumers under age 40, which includes PBH’s target audience of parents with young children. The efforts of many are paying off,” Elizabeth Pivonka, president and chief executive officer of PBH, said in a statement. “The bad news is that consumer groups traditionally most interested in health and who eat the most fruit and vegetables, including those ages 50 and above, are trending downward in their consumption over time.”

To bring to light additional findings in the 2015 State of the Plate report, PBH will host a one-hour webinar on Tuesday, March 31 from 2-3 p.m. EST. Interested participants can click here to register. The full 2015 State of the Report can be found on the PBHFoundation.org website in the Research section.

Former Ahold, Stop & Shop exec named president of NJ-based retailer

Mahwah, NJ-based Inserra Supermarkets, which owns and operates 21 ShopRite supermarkets in New Jersey and New York, has named Ron Onorato as its new president and chief operations officer. Onorato takes over the role as Steve Chalas, whose career spanned more than 50 years, retires from the family-owned ShopRite chain.

“Steve has a long history with our family, having worked side by side with my father in the earliest days to build Inserra Supermarkets into the company it is today,” Lawrence Inserra Jr., chairman and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “We will miss Steve and wish him nothing but the best in his well-deserved retirement.”

Onorato brings more than 35 years of industry experience to his new role at Inserra. Previously, he served as the senior vice president of operational initiatives of Ahold USA, an international group of supermarkets based throughout the United States and Europe, and as the president of the New York division of Stop & Shop. Onorato graduated from the University of Connecticut and the Wharton School of Business.

“Ron has an exceptional track record for operational expertise within the large-format supermarket sector and is known throughout the industry for his integrity and passion for his work,” Inserra said in the release. “We have no doubt he is the ideal leader to take our company into this next phase of development.”