If a retailer is selling blueberries, grapes or stone fruit — such as peaches, plums and nectarines — during the winter months, chances are the fruit is from Chile, said Karen Brux, managing director of the San Carlos, CA-based Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, North America. “As the largest fruit exporter in the Southern Hemisphere, Chile exports more than 800,000 tons of fruit to the U.S. annually, and over half of that is supplied during our winter months. Consumers expect their retailers to have year-round supplies of their favorite fruits, and Chile makes it possible.”
Brux explained that Chilean cherries are available from November through January. Blueberries run from November through March. The Grape movement from Chile runs from December through May, and peaches, plums and nectarines arrive in the U.S. from December through April.
“Chile exports around 400,000 tons of grapes to the U.S. each year,” said Brux. “This represents about half of Chile’s entire export volume to the U.S. The Chilean Fresh Fruit Association has unique retail marketing programs for each of these products, and we work with retailers across the U.S. and Canada to develop in-store and online promotions to drive sales. Often, these are focused on a particular holiday, such as Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day. Occasionally we’ll participate in promotion for organizations, like Heart Health Month in February.”
The Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, North America has a variety of point-of-sale cards and posters for every major commodity available from Chile during the winter months. An order form is available on the fruitsfromchile.com website. Brux noted that the website also provides numerous recipes and usage ideas, along with accompanying images for all the various Chilean fruits available throughout the year.
“In terms of promotions that are offered to retailers, during the 2013-14 season, the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association launched a very successful trial of a promotion called the ‘Great Grape Giveaway,” said Brux. “Retailers loved it. A total of 298 stores from 17 retail chains across the U.S. participated in the promotion. I think we had such strong support because it was fun and easy to enter, and it was a nice incentive for produce managers. We hope to expand on it in 2015, and hopefully double the number of stores participating.
“Most importantly, we work with retailers on custom point-of-sale promotion programs for their stores,” she continued. “In early 2014, for example, we designed a large 22-inch by 28-inch co-branded blueberry poster that reinforced some key blueberry health messages. The Chilean Fresh Fruit Association has also sponsored numerous health and wellness programs developed by specific retailers. You can’t be an effective marketer without tailoring your programs to fit your customers’ needs.”
Social media, she explained, is of huge importance to the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, and it has strongly changed the way its merchandisers work with retailers. For the past few years the organization has placed a strong emphasis on giving retail marketing staff — whether supermarket registered dietitians, social media or marketing managers — the information and images they need to reach their customers on their Facebook pages or other social media outlets.
“This has become a key component of our retail marketing programs and probably one of the most cost-effective means of reaching consumers with compelling information about fresh fruits from Chile,” said Brux. “Working with retailers on social media typically involves sending sound bites on usage ideas or nutrition info to whoever is responsible for social media within a retail chain. Retailers will often post this on their Facebook pages, blogs or websites, or even use it in in-store printed communication. Retailers of all types are on board with social media. We recently saw a small North Dakota chain take our information and turn it into a simple Facebook promotion where their customers could name their favorite way of eating Chilean oranges. It was so simple, and they had a few hundred responses.”
Supermarket registered dietitians often play a key role in retail social initiatives, and the association works directly with them on more nutrition-related info. It has sponsored numerous Produce for Better Health programs that bring together produce organizations and supermarket registered dietitians across the country.
“We encourage supermarkets to reach out to the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association merchandiser in their area and discuss promotion opportunities,” Brux shared. “We want to support everyone interested in promoting Chilean fruit.”
Volume in tons of Chilean fruit imports has been stable over the years. But Brux explained that 2013-14 was a very “off” year.
“Chile suffered the worst drought in 80 years, and the country also had a three-week port strike,” she said. “Export volume to the U.S. has been quite stable over the years. With Chile continually expanding its global presence and selling to more international markets, one might expect to see decreasing volumes to the U.S., but clearly that is not the case. Some commodities, like grapes, have seen decreased volumes, but others, like blueberries and citrus, have witnessed huge growth. North America is the largest market for Chile, and growers and exporters want to know what they can do to better serve this market.”