Honeybear Brand’s Don Roper Talks Pazazz Early Season Success and Best Practices for Retailers
ELGIN, MN - Though the apple may be a perennial favorite and a staple of produce departments everywhere, recent shifts in consumer buying habits have highlighted room for new and innovative varieties that can help retailers drive sales and secure repeat purchases. Honeybear Brands has been at the fore of this opportunity, developing and marketing new varieties to court consumers with exceptional taste and texture.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Honeybear Brands’ Vice President of Sales and Marketing Don Roper to find out more about the company’s latest premium variety—Pazazz—and learn more how and why it’s fast becoming a standout on the apple deck.
Q: Tell me a little about the Pazazz apple: How is the apple uniquely suited to today’s apple category?
Don Roper: Pazazz is a unique apple. It’s the star of our busy varietal development program at Honeybear Brands. We’ve grown, refined, and perfected it over ten years, and the result is an apple variety that really introduces customers and retailers to a new level of flavor, if you will. Pazazz as a variety also provides incredible, really unrivaled, storage qualities, meaning when it reaches store shelves in the early winter months, unlike other varieties, it’s bursting with a perfect balance of sweet and tart flavors and a second-to-none, just-picked crunch. What that means is a variety that guarantees retailers and their customers a high-crunch, high-flavor “wow” experience in every bite—at a time of year when this is almost impossible to find in any other apple on the deck.
Pazazz is a winner with consumers, but with retailers too. Industry models show the ever-popular Honeycrisp variety is slowing in sales and will plateau in the next few years. That’s going to dramatically impact volume sales and erode profit margins for retailers. But we’re finding our retail partners who are already introducing Pazazz to their premium-variety customers are reaping incremental sales and arming themselves with a truly distinct variety that will help to differentiate their apple offering and drive long-term sustainable sales revenue.
Q: Can you tell me a little about the feedback Honeybear Brands is hearing from its customers? How is Pazazz performing in store? What has feedback been like thus far?
DR: We work closely with our retail buyers across North America, soliciting their on-the-ground feedback so we can continue to provide best in class support to them. This was particularly critical this season, as we introduced Pazazz two months early before the holidays into a market where the consumer is distracted and has a lot of competition for their dollar. What we heard universally—and what we’re learning from Q4 numbers, across the board—is that Pazazz is a sales driver for the retailer, and we’re seeing customers asking for the variety by name from coast to coast. Demand has been incredibly high, sales brisk, and we smashed our retail projections before we even began our typical marketing and promotion programs after the New Year this January. That’s very encouraging as the Pazazz crop volume grows exponentially and we begin to position for truly universal availability across North America late this year and into 2019.
Q: How can retailers best capitalize on the possibilities Pazazz offers? What can retailers expect in the way of repeat purchases?
DR: Our retailers are telling us they’re looking for two things: a unique variety that can stand apart from the competition on a cluttered apple deck and a brand that really captures the customer’s imagination. We’ve been told that Pazazz delivers against both of those goals. Pazazz’s unique and careful blend of sweet and tart flavor appeals to a broad range of apple consumers’ palettes, which we’re convinced is one of the reasons our partners continue to see repeat sales from the start to the end of the season.
We’ve also worked hard to provide a bold, high-impact merchandising solution for partners. Rich, high-impact red boxes; a distinct in-store claim “Wow Right Now” that speaks to Pazazz’s winning flavor profile; and a wide range of POS signage, bins, easy-to-grab on-the-go pouch bags, and in store demo’s that consumers love. Our retailers who maximize their in store footprint with Pazazz maximize their apple category sales. No doubt about that.
Q: How have consumer campaigns and media attention driven the growth of the variety?
DR: At first Pazazz was simply word of mouth. Excited consumers told their friends, family, and co-workers about this special new variety—and that word spread fast. The same happened with retailers too. Orders skyrocketed. Over the past few years as the press got hold of our story, we’ve seen a lot of media attention that has really driven public attention, excitement, and in store sales. This year we’re focused on putting special sample boxes of Pazazz into the hands of influential food experts and writers across North America—and reaction to date has been very positive.
Q: Are there any particular suggestions or ‘best practices’ Honeybear recommends for customers looking to maximize sales?
DR: It can be really tough to change consumer behavior. Consumers have their easy safe choices, and they know what they like. But we’ve found that once someone tries Pazazz, they buy Pazazz. So in terms of best practices at retail, we’d place tastings and demos high on the must do list. With a variety like Pazazz that is so different from the competition it’s important to educate consumers too—to share with them what makes Pazazz’ flavor profile so distinct and unique. We provide a comprehensive offering of recipes, behind the scenes videos, images and marketing tools to help our retail partners tell their story. The most successful—and there are many—do a great job of combining in store trial, customer education and making use of our plug and play brand marketing assets.
Q: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about Pazazz apples?
DR: I’d say that creating, driving, and sustaining sales comes down to one thing: flavor. If you can’t provide a retail partner with guaranteed flavor that’s going to capture the taste bud imagination of every consumer and keep them coming back for more and more, you shouldn’t be in the apple business today. Flavor is the number one requirement we here time and again from our retail partners and also that Pazazz is delivering that by the bushel.
With a fresh flavor, bite, and marketing materials, Pazazz is an apple variety on the rise—delivering real results in produce departments across the U.S.
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