CMI Orchards Anticipates Trends to Support Growers and Retailers
WENATCHEE, WA - Predicting the future sounds impossible (to me, at least), but CMI Orchards is taking the guesswork out of consumer trends for the benefit of both buyer and grower. For years, the company has been building accurate trend forecasts to help bolster its growers, partners, and retailers.
“CMI Orchards is built on a culture of looking toward the future. This ethos is driven by our owners and embraced by our entire team, including our growers, partners, and retailers. Our shared expertise and emphasis on data analysis has helped us identify consumer and retail trends, then position our efforts to maximize those opportunities,” remarked Bob Mast, President of CMI Orchards.
As shoppers turned toward the convenience of online shopping, CMI noted an opportunity, one which included partnering with Instacart to sell bagged product.
“We began to really focus on ways to support retailers recognizing that a large portion of shoppers were already migrating to online purchasing versus in-store. When COVID hit last spring, we were well positioned to pivot to the changes in consumer shopping habits,” explained Rochelle Bohm, Brand Manager, CMI Orchards.
Danelle Huber, CMI’s Marketing Specialist, added, “We began partnering directly with Instacart just over a year ago. It’s a partnership we plan to continue to grow as we see online shopping continue to increase.”
According to a press release, another forecasted trend was the emphasis placed on digital advertising.
“Several years ago, CMI Orchards invested heavily in understanding digital advertising channels to support online and traditional shopping. We established relationships with partners who have helped us execute extremely successful digital campaigns. Together, this focus drives retail sales because we’re able to very effectively reach consumers when they are ready to make a purchasing decision,” noted Huber. “This effort has resulted in a significant and measurable ROI for our growers.”
CMI has also taken note of digital marketing strategies to drive retail sales. In its most recent campaign, the participating retailer’s apple category sales dollars grew 14.8 percent over the previous year, with KIKU® and Kanzi® apple sales showing a 28 percent growth during the promotion period.
“A big focus at CMI Orchards is to strategically forecast marketplace dynamics 10 years from now. This helps us to really understand how to best help our growers produce the very best fruit possible in the most efficient manner to meet anticipated consumer demands,” explained George Harter, CMI’s Vice President of Marketing.
Given this combination of digital advertising and increased demand, CMI Orchards needed to identify new grower partners to keep up.
“In the past few years, we’ve added three growers to the CMI Orchards’ family to help meet demand,” said Bohm. “Each partner was selected for the exceptional quality of their fruit and ability to consistently cover year-round supply of conventional and organic fruit.”
The new partners include Independent Warehouse, Yakima Fruit, and Pine Canyon Growers. Pre-packaged fruit, as many of us have seen in recent years, continues to dominate in consumer preference, and CMI was at the ready for this shift in behavior.
“Consumers are making fewer trips to the store with larger purchases due to COVID. They’re buying all their groceries at once, and they want enough fruit to last their family until the next trip. To meet this shift in demand, we’ve increased the package volume,” explained Harter. “We’re not only offering large volume packaging for our core apples, but we also have branded apple packaging so you don’t have to worry about deflating the category—you can still capture the incremental sales that branded apples deliver."
All of the company’s growers have invested in new tech to make sure that products going out to market will exceed consumer expectations. The press release noted that these technology investments have included robotic tray fillers to soil monitoring software. Innovation, after all, is a key component to success.
“This has become an industry that uses technology at every step. At Yakima Fruit, sales drive many of our technology-related decisions. Shifting consumer preferences and a need to maintain a competitive price point leads us to continually look for new innovation that can help us maintain quality,” explained Mike Wilcox, Co-Owner of Yakima Fruit.
On top of all of this, CMI Orchards has continued to increase its supply of organic fruit to meet retail and consumer demand. The company’s overall organic apple production is up over 25 percent compared to last year, and organic pear production is up 73 percent. Additional growth is expected in the new year.
“Moving forward, we’re going to continue to research and look a few years down the road to anticipate where the industry is headed. This commitment has proven to provide the greatest success for our growers, partners, and retailers,” explained Harter.
Sounds like CMI Orchards is the partner to have!