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The start of a brand new relationship

Consumer insights

Louise Wood, Freshmax Australia Category Manager

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2021 edition of AFG – now online.

Key points: 

  • Marketing builds the relationship between consumers and fruit 
  • Advertising helps consumers choose products before they even reach the store 
  • Highlights the points of difference between varieties of apples and pears 
  • Product quality and consistency are key for success 

At its heart, marketing is simply persuading someone to start a new relationship, to make a connection, says Freshmax Australia Category Manager Louise Wood. 

“You have to give people a reason to pick up that piece of fruit,” Louise said.  

As with any new relationship, Louise said it takes time and effort and a little bit of strategic planning to make a meaningful and lasting connection, starting with first impressions.  

“You may dress a certain way or find out what that person is interested in to attract their attention,” Louise said. “Once you have it, the real strategy of developing the relationship begins.Too much or too little too soon and you could lose them at ‘hello!’.  

“Finally you develop trust and reliability to cement the relationship. Marketing is the same; first we get the product noticed, then build trust and reliability with quality and the constant reinforcement of the brand or tagline.”  

Fruit-spruiking strategy

The Ricó advertising campaign

Strategy is a big part of the work Louise does marketing successful apple and pear brands, including Piqa®Boo®, Modi®, Honey Belle™ and from this year the blush pear Ricó®, for Freshmax, one of the largest fresh produce marketing and distribution operations in the Southern Hemisphere.  

She said the shift in the way the majority of fruit was sold, from local greengrocers to large retailers required new ways of educating and connecting consumers to fresh produce.

“When fruit was sold predominantly through greengrocers, those guys were in the shop, they were selling the fruit to the customers that came in,” Louise said. “Now the bulk of fresh produce is sold in supermarkets and there isn’t someone employed to spruik the fruit. That connection is lost.

“So you do need to get people to want to get it. They need to have an idea of the piece of fruit they’re picking up even before they get to the supermarket.

“That’s where marketing comes into play.”

Radio commercials, television commercials (TVCs), signage on bus stops and trains and social media are all part of the toolkit for building awareness and then reinforcing the name. 

“As consumers, we’re very afraid of the unknown, we steer away from it,” Louise said. “But if it appears to be familiar, you’re a bit more comfortable with it, you’ve already started to trust it.”  

Points of difference

Marketing is particularly vital for the apple and pear industry where at first sight there is little to differentiate between varieties on display, she said. 

Ricó: ‘Delightfully Different’

“For the consumer, it’s all just a red apple, or a green pear, so they don’t know the difference. You do need to establish a brand and then get people to identify with that brand.

“They may have seen it at a bus stop, heard it on the radio, seen it pop up on their Facebook or Insta page, then when they go to the supermarket, they’ll go, ‘this is familiar’. You’ve already got an attachment. It is about building a relationship between the brand and the consumer.”

Budget plays a key part in what is possible, particularly in the early days of a brand.

“Ideally, you’d want to spend a lot of money on marketing, but when a new fruit starts, you don’t have that sort of budget, because the royalties haven’t been established. But this does not stop you from marketing, it just means we need to work harder and smarter to get the message across.

Freshmax took on marketing of Ricó this season, alongside growers Seeka and Plunkett Orchards. The pear debuted at retail in mid-July.  

“What we are doing with Ricó, is trying to get the biggest impact we can, starting with an outdoor campaign which will last for a longer period of time and has a vast exposure,” Louise said.  

“Then, when you’ve established the name, over the next few seasons developing a more human touch; families having fun eating Ricó, or in a comfy, homely kitchen, with Ricó on the bench. So then you can start to identify and actually see yourself in it and build that relationship.”  

Quality is king

Marketing builds a relationship. Quality and consistency are vital to maintaining it, Louise said.

“Quality is 100pc. Marketing is about the first purchase, but sales is about the second purchase, and that is where quality comes in,” Louise said. “You want to make sure that they come back and buy and keep coming back.  

“We’ve been telling everyone Rico’s an amazing new pear with great flavour, it’s crunchy, it’s tasty, it has a great shelf life. But if you buy based on that, and it doesn’t have those things, as I said, it’s very easy to lose people at ‘hello’. It is so very hard to get them back and build that trust again.  

“Consistency is a really important thing with consumers, they want to walk in every single time and pick up the same piece of fruit they bought yesterday or last week. This is not an easy task by any means.”  

Value for money

How do you measure if a marketing investment is well spent?

Louise said while it was often frustratingly difficult to get definitive data, measures such as consumer loyalty, were a sign of value added.

“If they are coming back to purchase when it is not on promotion, then you can see it is working.

“When it comes to retailers taking on a new product, the fact that you’re going to put together a campaign to help market the fruit is definitely a value add to them also, as opposed to saying, ‘Hey, take our fruit because we’ve grown it.’

“As I’ve said to a lot of growers, if you don’t think continuous advertising is important, then just take a look at the companies that do continuously advertise – McDonald’s, Adidas, Nike, Apple. These are the biggest companies in the world, and the most recognisable brands, and they never stop advertising.”


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