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Getting on board: commodity boards offer retailers and consumers a helping hand with marketing support and educational programs.

Often operating behind the scenes as the marketing and promotional arm for various seafood, fruit and vegetable growers, shippers and packers, commodity boards undeniably offer a valuable service to retailers from store level support to complex research.

Need category management help? Want to schedule a demo? Grocers are likely to find the information they seek, plus more, by checking with the commodity boards listed below.


Large or small, East Coast or West, commodity boards make sure the industries they represent have a voice. Whether it is seafood from the waters of Alaska or apples grown in upstate New York, it is a complex undertaking that clearly benefits from a team approach.

Here is a brief rundown of some keys ways in which commodity boards can help retailers build sales:


The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute works with Alaska's seafood industry and retailers across the U.S. to raise awareness and educate consumers.

Not surprisingly, Alaska yields nearly six billion pounds of wild seafood (both finfish and shellfish) each year, which is more than all of the lower 48 states combined. According to Larry Andrews, retail marketing director for ASMI, strict harvesting quotas and fishing regulations ensure that Alaska will always yield a large quantity of seafood. "Returns are so closely watched that seasons may open and close within a matter of hours. Alaska is the gold standard--there is no better run fishery in the world in terms of sustainable practices and that's an important message we'd like to help retailers understand and get out to customers," he says. The association's latest slogan is "Wild, Natural and Sustainable."

Promoting the Alaska brand is one of the primary roles ASMI plays. The association's retail marketing program offers a wide variety of materials to help retailers for use in-store and during events that promote Alaska Seafood. Promotional materials include posters, recipe leaflets and brochures, on-packs, channel and case signs, instructional videos, informative websites, photography, health information and educational materials designed for consumers and retail seafood personnel. For example, the institute's website features buyer's guides for salmon, whitefish and Alaska crab as well as training aides that cover the basics about Alaska seafood as well as articles incorporating illustrated cutting techniques.

"We want to be viewed as the go-to resource for education and information about Alaska wild seafood," Andrews says. "Given the complexities and number of ways to prepare seafood, a key advantage and a challenge for grocers is to have a knowledgeable staff behind the case. Explaining about the fish, where it's from, how to prepare the product--these are all critical touch points that can help establish the retailer as a seafood expert and what will keep consumers coming back."

For more information, visit


The mission of the California Avocado Commission, which operates within the oversight Calif. Department of Food and Agriculture, is to create demand for California avocados through advertising and marketing. The CAC is also involved in tracking sales, monitoring purchasing behavior and communicating that data to the industry. "Our goal is to build brand identity for California avocados and contribute to overall value and viability for our growers--an important task considering 90% of domestic avocados are produced in California," notes Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine, Calif.-based group.

In 2008, the overall California avocado crop was 357 million pounds, which DeLyser notes is average size. The CAC launched a new marketing campaign to support sales of that crop themed "Hand grown in California." The campaign was a response to consumer research indicating they wanted to be closer to the food they eat. "We featured our growers and their stories which helped reposition the fruit during our window of peak volume in April through September," notes DeLyser.

For 2009, the California avocado crop is expected to be 210.1 million pounds, the lightest crop in about two decades. Fires, bouts of extreme heat during the bloom and water rationing in the Southern part of the state that required growers to reduce water consumption by 30% all affected the yield. On the upside, DeLyser says lighter volume means this year's crop is beautiful, sizing nicely and has a clean appearance.

Increasing consumption patterns are also expected to continue this year, notes DeLyser, who attributes sales growth to existing consumers eating more avocados and new demand markets being created due to promotional events such as Cinco de Mayo and the Super Bowl. As consumers experience disappointment with imports, DeLyser says it presents an opportunity for her group to promote the California brand.

For more information, visit


California produces 100% of the nation's dried figs and 98% of fresh figs. Comprising 10,000 acres, growers produced approximately 11,000 tons of figs in 2008. According to Karla Stockli, chief executive officer of the California Fig Advisory Board, based in Fresno, Calif., demand for whole figs and new products containing figs has been on the increase for the past few years. "Figs are a rich source of dietary fiber, are fat and cholesterol free and add much needed calcium and potassium to the diet," she says. Stockli reports that California's 2008 harvest produced good quality product and high yields. With supply and demand currently in balance, Stockli believes the stage is set for a healthier industry this year. "The increased plantings throughout the state of California will contribute to a consistent flow of fresh figs into the market place from mid-May to January and a consistent supply of dried figs throughout the year," she says.

The board is working with the industry to educate retailers and consumers about the healthful benefits and versatility of California figs as an ingredient in their favorite dishes. "We have worked to position figs as a flavorful ingredient in upscale and everyday foods," she says. "California figs have come a long way from the familiar Fig Newton to being an ingredient in savory chutneys and salsas. Today, consumers look at figs in a completely different way and as their interest increases, we are able to educate them on the versatility and functionality combined with the wonderful and healthful attributes of California figs."

The board also shows buyers and retailers methods for preserving and showcasing figs. "We encourage buyers and retailers to work with the Board on promotional efforts, needs they may have and ways to serve their customers," she says.

For more information, visit


According to Cindy Plummer, vice president, domestic marketing for the California Table Grape Commission, the backbone of the commission is research. This includes category management information, such as ad tracking, performance benchmarks, best practices and promotional analysis, along with other areas including consumer, trade, viticulture, nutrition, technical and industry research.

Fresh grapes remain the fourth most consumed fruit by consumers in the United States. In 2007, over 2.5 billion pounds of fresh grapes were consumed in the U.S., the second most in the past 10 years, with a per capita consumption of more than eight pounds per year. Grapes contributed 5.9% of all produce dollars nationally in 2007.

Staggered growing seasons in various regions combined with sophisticated storage technology, means the 50 hand-picked varieties of both seedless and seeded fresh California grapes are now available May through January. Plummer notes that 98% of the grapes produced in the U.S. are from California.

Retailers that participate in the commission's promotions can receive significant exposure with consumers through tagged traffic radio, Starlite billboards, tagged online banner ads and consumer magazines. Throughout the season, the commission will also be assisting retailers by sharing the latest research and giving away marketing materials which are designed to increase fresh California grape sales.

New promotions are planned with Oprah Winfrey's personal trainer, Bob Greene, for California's fresh grape season in 2009. His new Best Life Diet cookbook will be given away to consumers that purchase all three colors of grapes at participating retail stores. Additionally, an online marketing program featuring Greene will give retailers significant exposure through tagged online banner ads.

The commission recently launched its new website,, providing retailers with the latest research, news and consumer information. For the 2009 season, a marketing kit for retailers will be posted on the website that includes the latest grape category management research and recommendations for increasing grape sales in 2009. Also, marketing materials will be available for retailers, such as variety charts and back room posters, recipes, photography, nutrition information and a new consumer brochure.

For more information, visit


Established in 2001, the Cameo Apple Marketing Commission was formed to market the super-sweet, super-crunchy apple variety that was introduced in 1998.

Approximately 70% of Cameos are sold after the first of the year and 30% between October and December 31. "Previously there was a real gap during the later part of the season for a high quality premium tasting apple that retailers could use to generate incremental sales during the late season," says Kevin Precht, marketing program director for the Cameo Apple Marketing Commission based Wenatchee, Wash. Cameo apples, he adds, were grown specifically for taste and crunch. By toning down the red, growers are able to keep the skin very thin, the flavor sweet yet tart and the flesh very crunchy, explains Precht.

The commission provides demos, point-of-sale materials, research on how to price and promote Cameo apples and how Cameo's can add value to the overall apple category. In addition to its marketing role, the commission also oversees the industries only varietal-specific quality control program. "Each of our member shippers and growers are essentially all doing the same thing in terms of how they harvest, pack and store Cameo's," explains Precht. "This is a competitive market and it is important to maintain the consistency and a high quality level all the way through the season. Other than Red Delicious we are the only late season variety, which means Cameos can be found in grocery stores as late as July."

To address the growing interest in organic fruit, he says approximately 20% of the domestic Cameo apple crop is being converted to organic. "Given that much of the existing organic apples are early season varieties. We feel this will help retailers develop their organic sales in the late season." The commission will be launching its first organic Cameo promotion this year to tie in with Earth Day.

For more information, visit


The Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee represents more than 300 growers and 36 shippers in Southwestern Idaho and Malheur County, Oregon. Their goal is to work with its members to provide consistently sized onions and the best possible quality available. Increasing consumption of Idaho-Eastern Oregon onions through promotional programs, education, advertising and other communications is also the focus of the committee. "By partnering with our growers and shippers to create programs to entice buyers, we created a demand for mandatory-inspected Idaho-Eastern Oregon onions," says Sherise Jones, marketing director for the Parma, Idaho-based committee.

Officials at the committee say the 2008-2009 crop was very healthy with plenty of Spanish Sweets in a variety of sizes. While they may be known for their large size, smaller Spanish Sweets tend to be more appealing to retailers and consumers. Packaged onions are proving popular as well as consumers look to stock up they are continuing to seek out three- and five- pound bags.

Interest in Spanish Sweets has steadily increased during the past few years but as Jones explains, it is still critical for retailers to promote the onions, particularly at point of sale, especially, she adds, explaining taste, nutritional information and best way to store and cook with Spanish Sweets. Emphasizing where the onion was grown, explains Jones, helps to drive purchases and increasing consumption.

While they have a number of POS and promotional materials for retailers, the committee's annual event, Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Lover's Month Retail Display Contest, is one of their biggest promotional events of the year. New this year, the committee will feature a host of all new merchandising tips for retailers on its website.

For more information, visit


Officials at the Idaho Potato Commission say with prices and supply expected to remain stable throughout 2009, the best strategy for retailers is to return to their business-as-usual promotion and advertising plans. "There was a potato shortage at the end of 2008 due to a wet cold spring, which meant planting was late and the crop was smaller," says Seth Pemsler, vice president retail/international for the Idaho Potato Commission. "Lesser quality of potatoes due to the high heat from the previous year meant smaller pack outs because more potatoes headed to the processors rather than for storage."

As the shortage has subsided, prices have retreated, he says. "The potato category is among the top five most profitable categories in the produce section," Pemsler says. "Potatoes are the No. 1 volume item in produce and offer very healthy margins. Despite the recent price fluctuations, potatoes are still inexpensive compared to any other commodity."

Given consumers are watching their budgets closely, Pemsler says it is an ideal time for retailers to promote the message that for 25 cents shoppers can buy an average sized potato.

For the second year, the Idaho Potato Commission is running its national television campaign featuring spokesperson Denise Austin and focusing on the nutritional benefits of Idaho potatoes. "We belief strongly in actively communicating across all channels to consumers about the value of the potato and we are thrilled to partner with retailers to help them spread that message," he notes.

From a category management perspective, Pemsler says his group can also help retailers understand the category, provide data regarding movement in their market and nationally. They are also able to offer pricing and promotional strategies.

For more information, visit


Service and advanced logistics are just two of the aspects that make the New York Apple Association stand out. Jim Allen, president of the Fishers, N.Y.-based group, says one of the association's primary objectives is to raise the awareness and increase consumption of New York State Apples. "Not all retailers are aware that New York State is No. 2 in apple production. The New York brand resonates with consumers and the high-acid taste helps them to stand apart from comparative apples grown in other states," notes Allen.

In addition to having a unique taste profile, new varieties and flavors as well as better condition of apples at store level are driving interest. "Apple consumption has risen dramatically during the past few years thanks to improvements in take-home quality of the apples and the introduction of new varieties."

Allen says retailers can expect to see more varieties introduced this year. "Coming into this season we anticipated a good crop, but larger crops from both coasts have resulted in higher prices backing down a bit," he says.. "For 2009, supply and demand are high and the potential for a great season is strong."

The group supports the markets in which New York apples are sold and works to identify new market opportunities. Additionally, the association provides consumer research, retail handling techniques, incentives, promotions, contests and collateral materials.

A key part of helping retailers sell more apples, says Allen, are the instore demos his group helps organize. Although costly, he says its ability to put the apple right in the consumer's hands is well worth it. "Our role is to help retailers and growers sell more apples. One way to do that is to make the apple valuable to the consumer and convince her it is one of the best tasting apples she's ever tried," he notes.

Internationally interest in New York State Apples is on the rise, Allen says. Canada, U.K., Russia and Central America are among the markets they are currently serving..

For more information, visit


Some 84% of all fresh pears grown in the U.S. and 94% of all winter pears come from Oregon and Washington. With the goal of increasing awareness and consumption, the Pear Bureau Northwest was established to serve as the marketing arm to promote, advertise and develop markets for fresh pears grown in these two states, which are distributed under the U.S.A Pears brand. In all, the bureau represents some 1,700 growers and 50 packers and shippers.

Dennis James, director of marketing for the Milwaukie, Ore.-based bureau, says worldwide consumption of U.S.A Pears is increasing every year, thanks to year-round availability and more varieties, particularly with some of the newer varieties of pears. "Our goal is to play up the strength, value, market potential and long term benefits of pears for retailers. Given that pears are often an impulse verses planned purchase, ideal placement including up front display positioning, frequent promotions and attractive pricing are critical components in driving excitement and sales," notes James.

James encourages retailers to promote pears for back-to-school and Halloween and continue through the winter holidays and beyond.

"Increasingly we are seeing interest and consumption pushed out beyond the New Year and into late winter, thanks in part to the staggered variety of pears our region produces. There are also a number of synergies with cross-merchandising pears and summer fruits so look for more of that this season as well."

For more information, visit


Almost five million, 40-pound units of Vidalia onions are produced in the state of Georgia each year. In fact, the state legislature is so proud of its unique home-grown onion that it has named the Vidalia onion Georgia's official state vegetable. Officials at the Vidalia Onion Committee (VOC), which was established in 1989 to promote the brand, feels so strongly about the brand that they created a Hall of Fame to recognize people who are committed to protecting and promoting the name of the Vidalia onion and its quality.

This, coupled with the number of consumers increasing the amount of meals they are cooking at home these days, Wendy Brannen, executive director of the VOC, based in Vidalia, Ga., says the group will continue to focus on consumer education this year. As she notes, there are a number of opportunities for her group to partner with retailers and help them educate consumers on when Vidalias are in season and how they can be used in low-cost, hearty family meals.

New this year for the committee is a customized promotional program. The VOC will partner directly with specific retailers to promote the Vidalia brand. With higher production costs than typical storage onions, Vidalia onions are priced higher than similar onions in the market, making consumer education important, Brannen says. "Taking into account the seasonal aspect of Vidalias, retailers really need to have strong merchandising strategies in place during the spring and summer months so consumers understand why it is worth buying the Vidalia brand," she notes. Complimentary point-of-sale materials are available to U.S. and Canadian retailers.

For more information, visit


The Walla Walla Sweet Onion is an open-pollinated variety of sweet onion produced by about 30 growers in the Walla Walla Valley of Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon. Walla Walla Sweet Onions are available mid-June through September.

A U.S.D.A. marketing order designates Walla Walla Sweet Onions as a unique variety and establishes a federally protected growing area. Sweet onions grown outside this production area cannot be marketed as Walla Walla Sweet Onions.

The committee's goal is to strengthen consumer demand of Walla Walla Sweet Onions through promotions, marketing and research and development. Kathryn Fry, director of the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Marketing Committee, says through its website retailers can find a host of promotional items.

The committee's point-of-purchase materials highlight the rich history and "Sweet Tradition" of the industry. A recipe brochure features recipes from famous chefs and restaurants in the Pacific Northwest as well as consumer storage tips. "The consumer brochure is a beautiful full-color piece that brings your customers right to the heart of the Walla Walla Valley--where our growers have a century of tradition raising this sweet globe," Fry says.

For more information, visit
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Title Annotation:FOCUS ON FRESH
Author:Radice, Carol
Publication:Grocery Headquarters
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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