CMI Orchards KIKU® Brand Makes Strides In Apple Category
WENATCHEE, WA - As much as I love the sweet, crisp bite of nearly any apple, I've been in the industry long enough to know that the KIKU® brand apple is one to watch out for—especially as consumer behaviors shift.
“This year, we’ve shifted our promotional focus due to the COVID pandemic. We’re working with retailers and offering support for local kids’ sports clubs and organizations. With the cancelation of most sports and activities and an uncertain economy, we are working with retailers to identify local needs and supporting kids’ activities to ensure they remain accessible and affordable,” said George Harter, CMI Orchards' Vice President of Marketing. “KIKU has worked with retailers throughout the country to sponsor team jerseys, equipment, water bottle—whatever is needed. It’s a wonderful way to partner and provide funding to support the greatest local needs.”
The sweet and delicious apple brand has made a name for itself amongst consumers through its crisp, juicy texture and dessert-like taste.
“We’re not surprised that customers are demanding KIKU apples. People compare KIKU to its cousin the Fuji all the time and discover that KIKU has a more intense and sweeter flavor. It’s a fantastic eating experience with a beautiful striped ruby-red color. One of my favorite things about KIKU apples is that they are one of the few apples that really deliver a ‘wow’ experience,” explained Tim Welsh, General Manager of Fruit Growing Operations for Columbia Fruit Packers (CFP), one of the four families that comprise the ownership of the grower. “We love hearing reports from customers that KIKU apples are their favorite. Usually, it’s a ‘wow—this has incredible flavor and is so super sweet!”
CFP was granted the exclusive right to grow KIKU apples in Washington State, according to a press release. The company sub-licenses to Rice Fruit Company in Pennsylvania and Applewood Orchards in Michigan to extend the fruit's seasonal availability. And with more and more mouths beginning to water over this fruit, the grower partners are preparing to meet the high demand.
“We ended up picking just slightly over our estimate, which is a great position for us to be in and gives us more opportunities to support retail demand,” continued Welsh. “We continue to plant KIKU because of its value and success, and foresee a long and vibrant future for this apple.”
Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Rice Fruit Company, Brenda Briggs, also chimed in to tout the star power of this apple variety.
“The KIKU apple has registered at the top of the charts in sugar brix content, and is super juicy and crunchy as well. It really connects with customers when they take that first bite,” added Briggs. "These are no doubt the sweetest apples on the shelf, and they always leave customers reaching for more. Customers write us from all over the country to share how much they have fallen in love with KIKU, and frequently ask where they can find them.”
While the taste may be what keeps consumers coming back, it's the promotions around the brand that get these apples into shoppers’ carts in the first place. The company has placed KIKU at the forefront through its long history of promotion, with the help of sponsorships with everyone from Olympians to astronauts. This year, these promotions are looking a little different, in hopes of providing COVID-19 relief.
Briggs also explained how the company is making changes to its packaging line to meet these needs as well.
“In addition to the promotional support, we’ve expanded our packaging line for KIKU to respond to COVID. We now offer 2 lb pouch, 3 lb pouch, 3 lb poly, and 4 lb pouch options, as well as totes,” she said. “Customers want premium flavors in their homes, and quick decisions for packaged items when shopping in the store. We’re very focused on providing retailers with ways to drive sales, and expanding our packaging line and continuing with effective promotion has shown strong results.”
As these wow-worthy apples continue to climb the ladder in the category, how will the grower top this move? AndNowUKnow will report when we find out.