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Expanding export markets important to moving increased Washington apple volume

The Washington Apple Commission continues with due diligence to promote exports of the state's ever-increasing apple volume. "With the larger anticipated Washington apple crop, we are putting heavy emphasis on export opportunity," President Todd Fryhover told The Produce News. "I can say all programs are fully funded and we're hopeful to see a 20-percent increase or more for 2014-15."

Buzz in the orchard is translating to excitement for a successful season. "With 140 million [boxes] on the trees, the first exports will begin right away," Fryhover commented.ExportOverview1Last season, the Washington Apple Commission launched a new regional marketing campaign, Mother's Love, in Southeast Asia. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Apple Commission) Movement to Mexico, Canada and Taiwan continues to be robust, and important markets are developing in Southeast Asia and Central America.

Fryhover provided some numbers that illustrate the importance of export markets. "The 2013-14 WA apple crop is approximately 115 [million boxes]. For [2014-15], the August estimate indicates 140.19 [million boxes], our largest crop, above the 2012-13 volume of 128.25 [million boxes]," he stated. "Thirty-four percent is our goal and has been the percentage in past seasons. We are enthusiastically working towards reaching this goal this season."

Levels of increased production in Washington's apple industry have been carefully planned. "Some of the numbers above might seem daunting," Fryhover continued. "However, I would like to point out that we have been investing in more productive orchards, new varieties with a taste and texture for everyone, technology at the warehousing level and generally getting better and better at growing, packing and delivering high quality apples worldwide."

Prospects are good as the harvest approaches. "I've been around a long time, and this is one of the most 'even' crop loads I've seen," he stated. "Providing Mother Nature doesn't create issues or labor is short, this should be a good season."

Last season, WAC initiated a new regional marketing campaign, Mother's Love, in Southeast Asia. Export Marketing Director Rebecca Lyons said the program was highly successful. Lyons spoke with The Produce News to explain the concept of the campaign and the successes achieved.

"We wanted to create a region-wide campaign to engage our target consumers, women between the ages of 25 to 45, and appeal to their desire to feed their families delicious, wholesome food," Lyons commented. "Using the reputation of Washington apples coming from a safe, clean and healthy environment, the campaign focused on mothers providing only the best for their families."

Most of the promotional events associated with the campaign were held between November 2013 and March 2014. "Activities included specially designed point-of-sale material, display contests, consumer games and activities, in-store demonstrations and sampling, roadshows and other market-specific activities," Lyons went on to say.

The countries targeted by the Mother's Love campaign were Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. "Together, these countries account for over 4.5 million 40-lb cartons of Washington apples, worth approximately $93 million in f.o.b. sales," she stated. "Although due to the smaller crop versus 2012-13, our overall exports have decreased by over 7 percent, these countries -- with the exception of Thailand, which decreased 5 percent -- have all shown strong increases this season. During the campaign, we saw overall shipments to the markets increase an average of 50 percent compared to the same time frame last year."

WAC plans to expand the program within current Southeast Asian markets. "We are increasing the program reach beyond the major metro regions to appeal to consumers in outlying regions, which are experiencing strong growth in retail penetration and offer additional opportunities for Washington apples, particularly Red Delicious," Lyons said.

Although Red Delicious accounts for approximately 50 percent of Washington apple exports, Lyons said Mother's Love was not a variety-specific promotion. "We did encourage retailers to feature multi-varietal displays to heighten the visual appeal to consumers. We are seeing more and more displays of three or more varieties in the organized retail sector," she said. "They want to provide their customers with choices, and Washington certainly offers a lot of them."