Sunkist's Christina Ward, Jeff Gaston, and Cassie Howard Talk Shifting Citrus Market and New Marketing Strategies
VALENCIA, CA - If you were to look at the produce industry as a giant puzzle, one of the integral corner pieces that help frame the image would undoubtedly be consumer behavior—the thing that drives much of what we do in fresh produce. Sunkist’s piece would fit neatly next to this corner, serving as a link to the rest of the puzzle. The company has solidified this spot through its mission to understand what drives shoppers, and it is getting ready to reveal its findings at this year’s PMA Fresh Summit.
I spoke with Jeff Gaston, Managaing Director of North America Sales; Christina Ward, Director of Global Brand Marketing; and Cassie Howard, Director of Category Management, to get the scoop.
“We’re excited to meet with customers and share what we have planned for our new season,” said Jeff. “Even though we are apart, it is great to see the industry come together to celebrate nutritious foods. At Sunkist, we’re all about providing value-add to our retail partners to keep the citrus category going strong.”
To prepare for its upcoming showcase, Sunkist decided to get to the root of what is driving consumers to the citrus aisles. As COVID-19 has rearranged the grocery landscape, including fresh produce shopper habits, the company decided to investigate what would help drive the approaching season.
“We're approaching our favorite time of the year: citrus season! With the return of our classic, seedless, and sweet Navel oranges, PMA Fresh Summit virtual booth goers can get a digital taste of what we have cooking for the upcoming season,” said Christina. “Visitors can expect to see our customizable marketing programs and stand-out category management solutions, which are part of our value-added services, to help our retail customers stay connected with consumer trends.”
Cassie added on to this, detailing the results of a commissioned study that buyers will want to see.
“Shopper behavior and consumption trends are continually evolving,” Cassie remarked. “Sunkist commissioned a study to go a step further and understand why consumers are buying citrus now more than ever and how together we can keep the category top-of-mind. The results are exciting and our team is ready to build relevant marketing programs with our retail partners, speaking directly to what is driving their citrus shopper by variety.”
According to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) data, the entire citrus category grew by 20 percent over the previous year. More specifically, in May, orange sales were up 73 percent, and there continued to be strong momentum throughout the summer.
Oranges were one of the top produce items that experienced growth in bags, as the ability to stock up and have oranges on hand is an important factor in consumer decision making, and all citrus varieties continue to be the preferred healthy snack for citrus shoppers of all ages.
While some new patterns may have been more obvious in the changing tide of shopper habits, Sunkist’s survey uncovered a variety of new insights that will be the key to buying, marketing, and selling citrus this season.
“The health benefits and nutritious attributes of citrus are still very top of mind for consumers. Our research explained why shoppers are buying citrus now more than ever, and we found that 58 percent of increased citrus buyers were purchasing oranges purely for its Vitamin C content,” explained Christina. “Plus, we discovered that shoppers continue to look for produce with a longer shelf life, and if stored in a refrigerator, citrus can last for a few weeks. We'll continue to share what's real with our shopper behavior insights, nutrition education platform, and robust marketing programs.”
As citrus season appears on the horizon, help connect the pieces of the industry puzzle by linking up with Sunkist at PMA Fresh Summit, and discover the new-fangled secrets to unlocking unlimited citrus potential in your produce aisles.