All fruit is not created equal; at least, not in the eye of the consumer. As the healthy eating trend continues, consumers are demonstrating a willingness to pay a premium for top quality fruit. Playing to this market is allowing certain businesses to catapult their brands into the spotlight.
But achieving great brand recognition in the fresh produce arena doesn’t happen by accident. Producers must create a brand story that consumers can relate to, that matches the lifestyle they’ve chosen. They need a brand they can rely on for consistently high quality, a brand they trust to deliver great products every time.
This is where using technology in the packhouse is creating the differentiation top brands are looking for.
Selling the crunch, not the apple
Consumers are faced with more purchase choices today than ever before. The idea of only being able to buy apples from a bin, for instance, has long past. In any supermarket in the developed world, consumers can select fruit based on variety, price, country, farming practices, packaging and more.
If producers want to sell their stock for a premium, they have to be competitive and give the consumers what they want. We’ve come a long way since apples were either red or green.
Now, producers take a natural commodity and, using quality selection processes, careful packaging and other branding methods, they turn fruit consumption into what consumers want: a personal eating experience.
Creating an experience for customers builds a relationship. Once the relationship has been established, then comes the holy grail: brand loyalty.
Once they have connected with a brand, consumers will look for this brand at point of purchase. Apples are no longer just apples in their eyes. They want a specific apple, with a specific taste in a specific pack. They are buying the whole package, the whole experience, not just fruit.
Elmer Wheeler told meat producers back in the 1950s to ‘sell the sizzle, not the steak’ and now, the most successful fruit producers are selling the crunch, not the apple.
As a matter of course, today’s consumer expects their fruit to be safe, of consistent quality and available whenever they want it. All of these things contribute to their great experience of your brand, but it’s the crunch they will connect with; the eating experience.
The downside of branding like this is that once the consumer is emotionally invested, any potentially bad experience is magnified. They won’t see a piece of bruised fruit as a bad apple, they will condemn the entire brand. This is a huge problem today, where consumers are quick to share great experiences on social media and even quicker to share negative ones.
Avoiding negative back lash means one thing only: keep your quality high so that your customers stay happy and your reputation grows.
Supporting top quality in fresh produce brands with modern marketing campaigns
Top selling brands are focusing on two things: quality and marketing.
Let’s start with marketing. We are now seeing fresh produce marketed with vastly increased budgets, using campaigns that mimic other FMCG items rather than anything we would traditionally link with fruit and vegetables.
Wonderful Halos recently spent $US 30million on this seasons marketing campaign, Envy apples had an apple on every seat at this year's New York fashion week and even sent a box of their apples to the international space station and Avocados from Mexico will be returned to the Super Bowl with their 30sec advert during halftime.
Read more: Brand boom — how to create value through fresh produce brands
However, while marketing style is important to today’s consumer, quality is paramount. The good news is that fresh produce businesses have more quality control processes at their disposal than ever before thanks to technology and data.
Checking fruit for defects and damage, even using sorting machines, is nothing new. Automation has long been seen as an essential tool in achieving objective grading. Now, with recent advancements in internal grading, packers can guarantee the taste and eating experience of a piece of fruit to match brand criteria and consumer expectation.
A great example of this is USA packer, HH Dobbins. He has customers who would class water core as a defect and others who would consider it a premium. Using internal grading technology they are able to send the right fruit to the right customer, ensuring both have a positive brand experience.
Kok Hwee Ng, is marketing manager of Zespri, the recent Deloitte 200 Company of the Year winner. Data is increasingly important to Zespri, as they focus on ensuring each kiwifruit they supply is consistently good. She says, “We’ve made a lot progress in the way we leverage data, but we know there’s more space to grow as we get more data availability in the fresh produce industry.”
Read more: Success in China: An interview with Kok Hwee Ng, Head of Global Marketing at Zespri
Guaranteeing quality for consumers means collecting and using data in a meaningful way across the business. With the latest external and internal inspection systems Packers are standing behind their product with guaranteed confidence. A great example of this is T&G who invested in Inspectra2, we talked with Morgan Rogers who explained that the internal inspection system is used to make sure their world beating apple brands remain that, world beating.
Watch the video: Hear from T&G and how they use Inspectra2 to protect their world beating brands
Quality is created in the field and maintained and realized at the packhouse. Sorting produce into relevant grades accurately and consistently is the only way to guarantee the consumer a great eating experience every time.
Selling the 'crunch' means guaranteeing the experience – something that fresh produce suppliers have been strugled to do previously. But now, using internal and external inspection technology and leveraging the packhouse data, apples are no longer just apples. They are brands. Fresh produce is taking centre stage with other FMCG items and technology will keep it there.