Chelan Fresh's Mac Riggan Discusses Apple Popularity After the New Year
CHELAN, WA - Industry member or consumer, I would likely be surprised to walk into the store and see a full-fledged apple display outside of autumn. But that pause is exactly what Mac Riggan, Chelan Fresh’s Director of Marketing, says retailers should be going for.
“In all the years I’ve worked in marketing, I’ve learned people buy what retailers market to them—it seems like a no-brainer but it isn’t. If you put a big display at the front of the store, that’s what they’ll buy. In the fall, retailers will do that for apples on their own, but not so much in January, February, and March, even though apples are perfect to build displays with this time of year,” Mac tells me.
Perfect not just because Chelan Fresh continues to have a good-quality supply of apples, but because apples are convenient snacks for post-New-Year work outs or as on-the-go options when calendars fill up. It’s a point of differentiation just to push the category now, Mac explains, and it’s one step further to offer a few signature brands. In this case, it's Chelan exclusives like SugarBee™, Rockit™, and crowd favorite KORU®.
“All three are unique apples, especially with SugarBee and Rockit being exclusive to us. Not being available to everybody gives that retailer a point of differentiation when consumers relay these great products they tried and where their friends can get them,” Mac shares.
When I ask what key attributes and flavor profiles each of these apple varieties offer to help draw the consumer to retailers as an apple destination, he tells me the majority reaction to an eating experience for the fruit is in texture.
“Flavor plays a large factor, but the texture is where I see deal-breakers. SugarBee offers a crispy texture much like a Honeycrisp. Even deep into storage season it maintains its flavor, while Honeycrisp is still a good-eating apple but loses some of that flavor,” Mac says.
He tells me that KORU offers more of a firm texture when compared to the crispness of a SugarBee.
“If shoppers like Braeburn they are going to love KORU,” he sums up. “It’s sweeter than a Braeburn—we like to say it’s the Braeburn’s newer, sweeter cousin.”
Last, but certainly not least, is the Rockit.
“The Rockit has a nice thin skin; when combined with the fact that its very small, this apple is perfect for snacking. It’s the most consistent apple I’ve ever eaten and has a taste all it’s own, unlike any apple I’ve ever had before,” Mac describes of this powerfully petite fruit.
The Rockit has seen growth not just in its own merit, but also in its packaging options. Traditionally in a unique tube for on-the-go, Chelan has expanded pack options to a pouch and a shuttle pack for family convenience.
“We have three options available; I don’t necessarily recommend carrying all three at one time. Retailers need to decide what suits their audience. The shuttle and pouch bags do much better in-store while the tube is better for the on-the-go market,” Mac explains. “The shuttle in particular is clear, so kids can see the apples directly when it is sitting on the counter. The Rockit’s eating quality is good for two weeks on the counter—though, the way kids eat them, I can’t guarantee they will last that long! It’s easy for kids to grab while parents succeed in getting them a healthy snack without forcing it on them.”
And if you’re not sure that these various apple options will sell themselves, Mac assures that you won’t be without help.
“We don’t ship the fruit and say ‘You’re on your own.’ We’re great at supporting retail efforts, for example point of sale options and demos,” he says. “We realize retailers are busy and everyone is vying for their time, we aren’t trying to make them figure this out on their own. We will be there to help drive awareness to the consumer in any way we can.”
With exclusivity, a strong grower/marketing partner, and the element of surprise on your side, retailers, I’ll have my eye out to see if a new buy-side strategy for apple selling hits stores soon!