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Chilean Fresh Fruit Association reaps benefits of another successful promotional season

This season is expected to set a new record for Chilean blueberry exports, and the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association has seen ample opportunity to promote cherries, stone fruit and grapes.

Karen Brux, managing director for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, said that 87 percent of all cherry volume was shipped to China in the 2016-17 season. North America was the second largest market, receiving 6,362 tons, or 6.7 percent.Cherry-Cheese-Plate square-copy

“This season, we started shipping three weeks earlier than last season — and stopped one week earlier,” said Brux. “We saw much more volume coming in earlier during this season. The final shipment of cherries to the U.S. departed Chile in Week 5.”

Thirty-five percent of Chilean cherries shipped to the United States were the Bing variety. Other top varieties included Royal Dawn, Lapins and Santina. These four varieties made up 70 percent of all cherry varieties shipped to the United States from Chile.

“Our promotions take place in December and January, so we focus on holiday and New Year’s themes,” noted Brux. “Hence, our new POS cards with the taglines ‘The More the Cherrier’ and ‘Peace. Joy. Cherries.’

“We ran a very popular contest for Chilean cherries on our Facebook page, and have developed numerous festive usage ideas,” she continued. “These have been popular with retailers who often incorporate them into their social media platforms.”

Sales and display contests continue to be popular with retailers, and CFFA is seeing more retailers promoting online.  

By late March the Chilean blueberry season wrapped up. Brux pointed out the season was marked by a series of events. The most relevant were spring temperatures that produced an advance in the harvest of between two and four weeks. The season is expected to end at around a total of 103,500 tons, which sets a new record for Chilean blueberry exports. Of this, 67,431 tons were shipped to North America — a 6.5 percent increase over 2016 volume.

“While we haven’t seen a huge increase in blueberry volumes to North America, larger volumes of blueberries entered this market earlier than previous years, and strong marketing programs were key to generating healthy movement,” said Brux. “Our North American merchandising team worked with retailers across the U.S. and Canada on the most innovative, creative marketing programs we’ve ever seen. In addition to display and sales contests, we ran radio ads in select Canadian markets, worked with a large Hispanic chain to introduce Chilean blueberries in their kids cooking classes and reached consumers through numerous online channels, showing them why winter is the most ‘Bluetiful Time of the Year!’”

Chilean stone fruit also started shipping up to two weeks earlier than in 2016-17. Peach and nectarine shipments wrapped up in mid-March, with plums continuing into April. February and March were the strongest promotion months.

“We worked with numerous retailers on demos and sales promotions this past season and consistently achieved double-digit sales increases,” Brux explained. “Feedback on the eating quality is very positive and we are excited about further expanding our marketing program for the coming stone fruit seasons. Retailers who have promoted Chilean stone fruit have been very happy with the results.”

She added that there are great opportunities for smaller, regional retailers to promote some of the more unique varieties, such as Emerald Candy pluots, Purple Heart plums and Red Granade pluots.

“We’ve seen more of this happening at the retail level,” she said. “Retailers are calling out specific varieties and giving their shoppers more information on the different flavor profiles. This is a great way of creating a catchy display and elevating the entire stone fruit category.”

Shipments of grapes from Chile to North America through Week 10 this season reached 274,542 tons, up from 257,411 tons at same time last year. This is an overall increase of just 6 percent, but Brux said the challenge this season was that a much larger percentage of the total volume was shipped early, with large volumes landing in the market within a very short period of time.

The volume of grapes to North America through Week 52 was more than 200 percent higher than volume shipped through the same time in 2015.

“This put great pressure on the market, and certainly brought home the importance of strong marketing promotions to keep pushing the fruit through the market,” Brux stressed. “Similar to stone fruit and blueberries, we ran in-store display and sales contests, sponsored retail events, sponsored social media contests, introduced new radio ads and worked with nearly 100 retail chains on tailored marketing programs.”

Grape shipments, she added, have started to slow down, but will continue into April.

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