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Multimillion-dollar ad campaign will support Bard Valley Medjools through holidays

With the volume of the recently completed harvest of Bard Valley Medjool dates up 15 percent over the prior year and an anticipated continued growth in supply of 10 to 15 percent annually over the next five years, Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers Association in Yuma, AZ, is making a major consumer advertising and public relations push to build continued growth in demand ahead of the expected volume increases.

The Medjools, and related products 002-HoliDriedFruitNut-Bard-Edward O'Malleysuch as Medjool date rolls, are marketed under the brand "Bard Valley Natural Delights," which was introduced two years ago.

"We have a major marketing campaign going on," Edward O'Malley, president and chief executive officer of grower-owned Datepac LLC in Yuma, said Oct. 16.

Datepac handles sales for Bard Valley Medjools and also does most of the packing for the association's grower-members, who are located in Yuma and in nearby Bard, CA, on either side of the lower Colorado River.

According to O'Malley, the campaign, now in its second year, is designed "to drive increased awareness of 'Bard Valley Natural Delight' Medjool dates" and "both the taste and nutritional benefits that they bring."

Although Bard Valley Medjool dates are available year-round, peak consumption time is the holiday period "between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we're gearing up for that," said O'Malley.

The nationwide marketing campaign includes print ads with coupons in Eating Well, Cooking Light, Prevention and Food Network magazines in the issues from September through December, as well as banner ads in the online versions of those magazines, he said. There is a social media component as well.

The ads target "health conscious consumers who are looking for healthy snacks, as well as healthy ingredients to use in salads or on their oatmeal to supplement their snacking. That theme is in all our advertising and communications -- dates are a healthy snack and a healthy ingredient."

In December, "we are shifting the creative focus from snacking" to a theme called "liven up recipes," and are "offering ideas on a variety of ways to use Medjool dates in recipes around the holidays," he said.

Along with the advertising, "we've got in-store merchandising," O'Malley continued. "We are doing a lot of couponing and demos and in-store sampling as well." Also, "we are offering shippers out to all the stores to help support better merchandising and bring people into the category."

The geographic reach of the campaign is nationwide in the United States as well as Canada.

Datepac and the Bard Valley growers have "about a 65 percent market share in the United States" in the Medjool category, according to O'Malley. Demand for Medjools has been increasing, and date category sales have grown by 15 percent over the most recent 52-week period. With this year's crop volume up by about 15 percent over the prior year, "we see the supply is available to continue that 15 percent growth rate from last year." Not many categories in produce are seeing that kind of growth, he said.

With the increased availability of Medjools that is anticipated over the next few years, the marketing campaign geared to "keep expanding the demand consistent with the supply, because the date is a very underdeveloped category," he said. "We are excited about the category, and more and more retailers are figuring out that this is a real growth item."