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Retailers 'Warm Up to Michigan Apples'

From Jan. 1 until Feb. 28, national retailers will be participating in an apple promotion sponsored by the DeWitt, MI-based Michigan Apple Committee. In this "Warm Up to Michigan Apples" campaign, retailers must run three ads in that January-February 2007 time frame promoting bags of Michigan Red Delicious, Rome or Jonathan apples to enter.

Denise Yockey, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, said that if retailers complete the "Hot Deal" on three-pound bagged apples, they will receive a 25-cent per case rebate from the apple committee, payable to the business.

For each five-, six-, eight- or 10-pound apple case sold within the contest rules, the retail company will receive a 50-cent per case rebate. All entries will also receive a long-sleeve T-shirt.

"We have a lot of bigger bags this year," which makes the promotion especially appealing to retailers.

Ms. Yockey told The Produce News Dec. 20 that the Michigan Apple Committee also has promotions planned for consumers in early 2007.

"Everyone turns over a new leaf" at the start of a new year, Ms. Yockey noted. "They stop unhealthy eating and people's minds turn to fitness. In Michigan and Greater Chicago, we will use billboards promoting Michigan apples as 'The taste you love and the shape you want.'"

To accompany this, the apple committee has issued news releases and engaged in public relations activities touting the healthy aspects of apples. The public relations activities include the MichiganApples.com web site, a food show appearance and health magazine promotions. In mid-December, she said that the committee was "out looking for retail tie-ins in markets to bring our image into the store. Retailers are doing special health promotions in January and February, and we are looking to partner with them."

The Michigan Apple Committee has launched a pilot program that if all goes well will expand next year, Ms. Yockey said.

This ties proof-of-purchase labels from Michigan apple bags into school fundraisers. Random drawings will be held for schools that send in students' proof-of-purchase labels. Two schools will win $3,000 in cash, two will win $2,000 and two will win $1,000. The schools will be allowed to use the money at their own discretion. The drawing is random, "so the largest school districts are not necessarily the winners," Ms. Yockey said. The drawing for the pilot program will be held before the end of the school year.

"We think it's important to get kids hooked on apples and help the schools at the same time."

The promotion is outlined on the Michigan Apple web site.

Ms. Yockey said that the Michigan Apple Committee places "a lot of emphasis on point-of-purchase items. There is data that show that 80 to 85 percent of the purchasing decisions are made in the produce department. Apples are on the list," generally, in consumer behavior patterns, "but what they buy depends on how they're influenced at the point of sale." With this in mind, the Michigan Apple Committee provides signs and banners for display racks. This year the committee made available to its packers a series of display-ready cartons, which bear either trays or three-pound bags.

The display-ready cartons feature artwork of a school bus, a Halloween them, holiday baking or a "Great Lakes, Great Flavor" theme.

The cartons, Ms. Yockey said, "Allowed special promotions that maybe involved whole pallets." The baking theme is important because this time of year is the most popular time for baking, and Michigan apples are very good for baking.

The promotions "dress up a display from being a commodity to be fun for the consumer." Not all Michigan shippers are using the display-ready cartons, "but some are having fun with it."

She noted that the Michigan Apple Committee "always has new recipe cards. We are looking to promote health and fitness from January to March with healthy recipes we developed here."