Launching new products, in our case apple varieties, is always a wild card. There are problems in sizing, pack outs, crop load, and flavor on most new offerings. While Rave® was a little unpredictable on sizing, it hit home runs on flavor and pack outs—consumers wrote in with enthusiasm, as was evident at our pop-up shop in Manhattan. This year we’ve planned many events, contests, and content sharing on the variety, and I want you, the buyer, to understand why it—and products like it—are becoming more and more necessary in stores.
Any new item needs a reason for being brought into the marketplace, which are simple to see if you really dial in: The item fits a window of time when other products aren’t available at retail; it has flavors and consumer attributes that make it unique or better than an item presently on the shelf; it’s similar to another item but with better cosmetics; it is easier to grow, creating sustainable farming income; or it isn’t any better or worse than a competitor’s item, but you feel your sales and marketing teams can win the shelf because of the strength of your company.
"Shiny and fresh, it gives a very bright presence with its flashy red box and “sound bubble” logo. It will also be an apple that is marketed on the concept of sharing the experience with others—Rave about it."
It can be one or a combination of these factors, however we don’t just need more stuff on the shelf, we need uniqueness. When apples are all old crop on the shelf, yet we are at a back-to-school timing with no fresh apples to sell, Rave comes in at a hard window to beat of August 1. This is an unbelievable advantage for a new item, and we are not pushing the crop to make this timing like so many products try to force harvest before it is time.
Rave is also extremely unique in that it is super juicy with a real fresh “in your face” flavor. It has the bite or texture of Honeycrisp and it has color and cosmetics that develop in the heat of summer. It packs easier, colors easier, and crops easier than many other apples. Retailers are going to have fun with this apple as it develops as a key item in the future if we change a few current issues.
As an industry, we fail to message to the consumer at many levels—a downfall of many items at retail. Store signage has become generic, short on information, and lacking intrigue. Instead, new items throughout the store are cluttered and confusing. Why would anyone go to the store and buy something they’ve never heard of, with no knowledge of it?
Retail is missing impulsive displays that call out new things or great promotions, a major issue with building sales, especially on new items.
Rave can help simply in that we will be the only new season apple on the shelf for the first two to three weeks. Shiny and fresh, it gives a very bright presence with its flashy red box and “sound bubble” logo. It will also be an apple that is marketed on the concept of sharing the experience with others—Rave about it. We will have lots of activity nationally that will bring Rave into the news and media (stay tuned!) which brings me to another issue: online shopping.
The online and home delivery grocery business is real, and I love it, but I encourage anyone to order online and feel impulsive about buying anything unique. It should be the easiest space for us to tell stories, add authenticity, talk about characteristics, and give usage tips. However, we fail to do this on many fronts. I do believe this will change from the basic ordering system that encourages reordering historical purchases rather than building a future shopping experience, and I have to have faith that online shopping is going to be a savior to new items in the future. Today will change.
We have more tools than ever with conventional advertising, influencers, press, media, social channels, events, and, of course, point of sales contests and samplings. The good news is there are many channels that are relatively inexpensive. The bad news is that the dilution of the audience per channel can make it hard to get a message out to huge audiences. We need to use multiple tools to get our message out and never forget the point of sale.
Rave has the same problems that other new items have, but it can defy the starting season associated with apples. Being so juicy and yet harvesting so early is a paradigm shift for consumers. Its unique name and marketing theme based on social sharing, which is nothing like the apples from before, from Red Delicious to Gala to Honeycrisp, has this apple really hitting millennial consumers from introduction to establishment of supply. It will be able to become a favorite of their own generation without having it handed down from another generation. Then comes the Z generation in the decade to follow. We have the opportunity to make the story even more fun, let’s not waste it. Rave about it.
Among his decorated portfolio, Roger was a produce buyer and merchandiser for the Midwest supermarket Meijer for 21 years and has been Stemilt Growers’ Marketing Director for 19. He has served on boards for several industry groups, including a year as Executive Board Chairman for the Produce for Better Health Foundation, member of Produce Marketing Association’s Exhibitor Advisory Committee, and United Fresh board member and Chairman of the Marketing-Merchandising Council. His major objective is to innovate and create a brand that separates products from becoming “commodities.” He believes the best marketing team members in the produce industry make goals fun and achievable.