The lure of a trip down under has helped more than double sales of Australian Pink Lady® apple packs in UK retailer M&S in a successful levy-funded marketing promotion run by Montague.
Purchasers of the Australian Pink Lady packs were offered the chance to win a week for two in ‘the original home of Pink Lady apples’ in the competition, developed with APAL’s European marketing subsidiary Coregeo, and offered exclusively through M&S in October 2018.
Montague’s Export Manager Claire Fitchett said the competition had attracted over 3000 entries and contributed to widespread social media engagement and strong sales.
M&S sales of Australian Pink Lady packs rose an impressive 158 per cent on the previous year, from 78,554 in 2017 to 202,608 in 2018.
The winners Liz and John Godley visited Australia earlier this month and were guests at Montague’s Orchard Day on 3 May.
“They have a daughter in Australia and were due to come last year to help her plan her wedding, but got sick at the last minute,” Claire said. “When they found out they were the winners and had the opportunity to visit this year instead, they were delighted.”
Claire said a key challenge of exporting into the UK and Europe was the higher price of Australian fruit.
“The story of Pink Lady being an Australian apple, with higher sugar and higher colour, and a better-quality product is acknowledged by customers,” Claire said. “But it is an ongoing discussion with customers to justify the higher price due to our high cost of production in Australia. Ultimately, after trying our fruit customers see value in our product”.
“Engaging with customers and keeping up with them is important. We had to do a lot of walking through the idea with the importer World Wide Fruit and the customer on how it would grow volumes. It gave M&S a point of difference to the other retailers and they were very happy with the campaign.”
Boosting exports is a key industry priority and the promotion was funded as a marketing pilot by Hort Innovation using the apple and pear marketing levy.
Claire said as well as lifting export sales to Montague and other grower suppliers, the promotion had removed fruit from the domestic market, strengthened ties with UK retailers and boosted awareness of the Australian Pink Lady brand.
She said investing in relationships was a very important part of building long-term exports.
“We’re committed to export and you have to be able to ride out the good and the bad years,” she said. “You can’t just keep your fruit here if domestic prices are good and sit out the year on export or you risk losing your market the next year. We’ve had years when we’ve exported for no better returns than we would get through Coles and Woolworths, but being there for the long term is really critical. You’ll never build a relationship with customers if you don’t do that.”
Provenance is a key part of the Montague story.
“We are a family business and all the values that come with that,” Claire said. “It’s fruit sourced from our orchards or one of our supply partners. We grow it, we pick it, we ship it. It’s important that people know what they are going to get when they buy from us.”
Montague also exports apples into Thailand, and stonefruit into Asia, primarily Singapore, Malaysia and China. Claire said fruit was targeted at high end premium markets in China and fetching good prices at retail.