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Seismic Snacking: A Q&A with Julie DeJarnatt, Director of Retail Strategy, Chelan Fresh

Seismic Snacking: A Q&A with Julie DeJarnatt, Director of Retail Strategy, Chelan Fresh

Seismic shifts defy trends. They are movements—pressure points from which fault lines give way to the Earth. Or, in this case, they are categorical shifts that give way to movements in how humans navigate time and place in the world. No more evident are these shifts than in the way people, families, children consume their food—a vast need that is never static and always evolving.

Each dinner table is its own little universe. The sun, moon, stars, and planets shift and interact with purpose and hunger. And food allows this little universe, this solar system, to become self-sustaining.

So, what the heck does this have to do with fresh produce? Just ask Chelan Fresh’s marketing maven and buy-side whisperer Julie DeJarnatt, Director of Retail Strategy. The company’s innovative and trend-defying Rockit apples have caused the category to quake and reemerge with new standards, demands, and a vision for feeding the produce savvy, the apple lovers across demographics and ages, and the modern table that is today’s consumer universe.

Jordan Okumura: Who knew such a little apple could make such big waves! With the coveted Rockit apple program now available year-round from Chelan Fresh, how are retailers responding to the demand the variety has generated in recent years, and how have you seen the variety’s popularity grow?

Julie DeJarnatt: Retailers are thrilled to have something as exciting as Rockit apples in the apple category. They are truly unlike anything else. There has been a lot of flavor innovation coming into the category as new varieties are introduced, which is already great, and the eating experience of fresh apples has never been better. But, Rockit apples take that innovation to the next level.

These are one of the only kid-targeted apples that are naturally grown to be miniature in size while also being fully mature. This means that they eat great, hold up in storage, and help bring in new apple consumers—all at a premium price that supports topline sales.


JO: This year has already generated a ton of demand around the Rockit apple variety and Chelan Fresh is not only tapping into this excitement, but amplifying it with large-scale marketing efforts. What are some of the key elements of Chelan Fresh’s new marketing campaign, and how can retailers tap into the opportunities Rockit provides for driving sales and differentiation?

JD: Consumers use a wide range of avenues to help guide and inform their decision-making process on healthy eating. Our campaign is focused on reaching consumers wherever they choose to engage and explore healthy eating tips, seek out new recipes, learn how to get kids to eat more fresh fruit, or mix up their grocery shopping.

With all these buying and eating behaviors in mind, we will be leveraging tools that help apple lovers quickly and easily turn that discovery of Rockit apples into a seamless purchase transaction for the retailer.

“These are one of the only kid-targeted apple that are naturally grown to be miniature in size while also being fully mature.”

Julie DeJarnatt, Director of Retail Strategy, Chelan Fresh

JO: Speaking of playing at a higher level, what are the rules of this new game, and how is Chelan Fresh defining the message and the aesthetic of this campaign?

JD: Making good decisions about health and diet can be overwhelming—not only which foods to eat, but also navigating portion control and ensuring enough nutrients. But eating healthier doesn’t have to be a big deal; Rockit apples are low in sodium, fat, and cholesterol. Apples are a good source of vitamin C and can do a lot for consumers, thanks to plant chemicals called flavonoids, as well as improved immunity and gut health due to the pectin, or soluble fiber, found in the apple’s peel—all in the perfect snack-sized portion.


JO: I picked up a Rockit apple for the first time only about five years ago. While I was blown away by the apple’s crunch and fresh flavor, what catapulted my basket, and I imagine many others, was the packaging. What packaging and shipping specs do you offer for Rockit, and what inspired you to go these routes with packaging and concepts?

JD: Keeping true to the uniqueness of Rockit apples, we offer them in really distinctive packages. From small grab-and-go 2- to 5-count tubes to 3 lb Shuttle Packs, we have a size offering for everyone. We try to balance all aspects of packaging, from keeping the fruit safe from over-handling to ensuring it is clearly visible to consumers to providing long-term sustainable solutions. Our Rockit Shuttle Packs are made from 100 percent rPET plastic, and we provide a lot of creative ideas for consumers to keep the positive cycle going by upcycling the container into things like mini-greenhouses, bird feeders, or even beautiful lanterns.

We also have seasonal packaging options that tie into retailer holiday themes and help the shopper consider even more fun ways to use and gift Rockit—like back-to-school lunches or holiday stocking stuffers!

JO: There are so many benefits to the Rockit program. What is the flavor profile for the Rockit variety, and how is the Rockit eating experience tapping into the consumer’s desire for fresh, healthy, and flavorful food and raising the bar across the entire category?

JD: Rockit apples are incredibly crisp and sweet with an eye-catching red blush color. They are the snack apple with a satisfying natural size. A Rockit apple only has 60 calories. Ate two? That indulgence is still only 120 calories and will boost an active lifestyle for both kids and kids at heart.

Rockit apples bring something brand new to a vast and established fresh category. Consumers have responded by buying enough of our little Rockit apples to boost it into the top 20 selling apples by volume in the U.S. this year, according to Nielsen data for the 52 weeks ending August 1, 2020. And they are paying a premium price for it, which supports both our growers and retail partners’ topline sales. We have big plans for the upcoming 2020 crop and selling season as Rockit settles in as an everyday offering on the shelf and a staple in consumer homes.

Groundbreaking fresh produce moves, in my book, are a seismic activity worth making note of! With Rockit’s skyward trajectory across the apple category, could we see more big things presented in smaller packages? Time will tell. Either that or Chelan Fresh will. 

Seismic Snacking: A Q&A with Julie DeJarnatt, Director of Retail Strategy, Chelan Fresh