First Fruits Farms Unveils Category Wins and Newly Expanded Team; Joe Vargas Comments
YAKIMA, WA - Demand is surpassing supply. While these words can make for a complicated market dynamic, the takeaway for me in this situation is: the category is not only loved, but needed. And that desire is growing. First Fruits Farms has been experiencing these words quite often as of late, and as the demand for its products grows, so does the desire to build a team to support such growth and evolution.
"If I look back at the past 12 months, we have so many amazing hallmarks to motivate our continued growth, and what speaks highest to this reflection is the growth we have experienced with our team and our people," Joe Vargas, Director of Marketing and Analytics, shares with me. “We’ve reinvigorated our sales and marketing office by bringing together a new team to prioritize innovation and develop the FirstFruits brand in a strategic direction.”
This investment in its people has brought many new faces into the fold, including Paul Esvelt, Director of Sales; Aimee Bach, West Region Strategic Account Manager; Sara Palmisano, East Region Strategic Account Manager; Emily Autrey, Marketing Coordinator; Aleisha Loveluck, Data Analyst; Tristan Hauck, Sales Assistant; and Amy Forrest, Sales Assistant.
“The need to build our team has been essential as we look to continue understanding consumers’ underlying motivators and trends, boost the category with relationships supported by information and data, increase customer loyalty and consumption, and align our supply chain to meet changing consumer trends,” Joe says. “Since the origin of FirstFruits, people and families have always been the focus of our company—internally and externally. Although our community remains the center of our mission, we’re innovating the dynamics of culture by bringing in new minds and communicating as a cohesive, strategic front.”
But people are not the only area of growth, which brings me back to that demand-surpasses-supply statement.
“For our organic and conventional Opal apples—even in the midst of a pandemic—our marketing program led to another year of 'demand surpasses supply' and we were able to validate our total ultra-low oxygen storage on Opals, moving us ever closer to a 12-month supply,” Joe reveals. “And, we have to talk about Cosmic Crisp. Our 2020 crop proved to be extremely positive, and we were able to continue to sustain our growing and harvest strategy.”
Additionally, FirstFruits’ growing and business practices have led to a positive and consistent eating experience across the board. As Joe continues to hear it: one of the best in the industry!
Opal apples have gained ground due to their consistent quality and flavor, along with their now-year-round availability. On top of these elements, Opal apples help retailers with category presentation by giving them a sweet, crisp apple that allows for a color break.
The Cosmic Crisp variety has an enhanced flavor as well, ensuring repeat purchases—an essential to category management. Over recent years, the industry has established a good foundation for a variety that is proving it is here to stay; offering a consistent-tasting experience—another category priority.
So, what has inspired the reinvigorated investment in FirstFruits products and its people, I ask Joe?
“The need for innovation and exceeding consumer expectations has been driving the latest strategies and, also, category growth has plateaued over the past few years, requiring a fresh mindset and approach be brought to the table,” he responds. “We have a company driven to bring value to our customers and to exceed their expectations. With vertical integration, fully utilized benefits of tapping 100 percent of our own packing and storage at one facility, and some of the fewest food miles to get apples from the orchard to the production facility—we hope our customers see we are also investing for them.”
As apple category innovation continues to drive new strategies and change, FirstFruits will be helping to elevate the conversation.
And most certainly, demand.