Honeybear Brands' Don Roper and Safeway's Brian Porter Talk Pazazz Apples
ELGIN, MN - The old adage “how do you know you don’t like something if you haven’t tried it” might work well coming from Mom, but it’s a little hard to literally sell in the grocery store. It has taken a combination of untapped demand, a winning product, and strong partnership between the supply-side and buy-side to help dissolve those walls, and the still-new Pazazz apple is among those looking to help the category break barriers that have existed for decades.
“When you look at the apple category right now, it’s been riding a 20-, 30-, and in some cases even 40-year-old flavor profile, dominated by a few varieties. Honeycrisp disrupted that, but about 60 percent of offerings is still Gala, Fuji, Granny, and Red Delicious,” Don Roper, VP of Sales and Marketing for Honeybear Brands, tells me. “We have a whole new generation of shoppers who are looking for new and exciting flavor profiles and a great eating experience. The apple industry has recognized this, and the level of investment being made into developing new varieties and enhancing the eating experience is second-to-none in any other category.”
One of Honeybear’s own contributions to the renaissance, the Pazazz apple, is already helping answer that demand in kind.
“To start, we have seen strong sales with key retailers that kicked off recently, and we are looking forward to our promotional programs that are helping drive really strong performance,” Don said, explaining that this year’s Pazazz season started early enough to catch some New Year resolutions with a flavorful yet healthy food. “Fruit flavor is fantastic, the orchards have grown up, so to speak, so we are seeing consistent quality and an exceptional eating experience.”
He explained that the team’s Pazazz marketing program coordinates in-store promotions and product positioning with ancillary tools, including social media programs and local community engagement, to drive awareness and consumer trial. One of those partners is Brian Porter, Regional Director of Corporate Produce for Safeway NorCal.
"To start out, we made sure to merchandise Pazazz aggressively in high-traffic areas right out in front of the customer and saw it grow from there," Brian said when I asked about how Safeway helped get consumers out of their routine and into Pazazz apples. "This is our second or third year of offering the Pazazz apple and we’ve been very pleased with it. It wasn’t something that was on our radar—it was recommended we give it a try, and we had a lot of success on it our first year. Now, this year, we are being a bit more aggressive, increasing promotions and really strengthening the partnership. Honeybear is a great company to work with, and we’ve been very happy with them."
Don, too, speaks to how crucial being a strong partner is for new items and how the apple industry as a whole has really stepped up in this area.
“Because the apple industry recognized we haven’t addressed these new consumers’ needs, everyone decided to make investments in new varieties. The new varieties coming to market offer a huge improvement in flavor, texture and eating experience never seen in this quantity before, and they all serve as new tools for retailers to implement in their stores. Pazazz has a complex flavor profile, suiting the heavy apple users out there that are striving for more than the usual apple experience, give the consumer great flavor and we win,” he says.
Don concludes by explaining to me that the apple category is one of the most profitable in the produce department due to its high gross margin, broad appeal, and minimal shrink, but new apple products are necessary if retailers want to maintain those benefits.
“Retailers should make sure they are doing ads at least once a month with bulk SKU, pouch bags, or totes. You want to build cart stopping displays and make sure you’re demoing products. The key is to get it into the consumers’ mouths, percentages show that’s where the win is,” he advises.
We look to more versatility to continue keeping consumers excited about fresh produce, apples and beyond, and I for one can’t wait to see what 2020 brings us.