Gearing Up for New Season
Russia is a new market we see as having potential to become a major importer of Washington apples over the coming years. This fall, the commission will host a group of Russian lifestyle journalists to an information-packed two-day visit to the north central Washington region. Our goal is to generate editorial content in magazines and newspapers that reaches our target market and carries the weight of credibility that paid advertisements cannot. During visits to orchards, farmers’ markets, a packing shed, and an interview with a nutritionist, we will be communicating the messages that Washington apples are healthy and grown with care.
Almost half of Washington apple exports go to our neighbors to the north and south, Canada and Mexico. Many consider Canada to be an extension of the U.S. market, and our promotional program is similar to the retailer-focused programs in the United States. However, we also produce catchy point-of-sale materials for use in the wholesale markets and small grocery stores that cater to the immigrant populations of Canada (who tend to be heavy fruit consumers). The past two seasons, we have also produced media kits with recipes and received favorable coverage in regional newspapers throughout the country.
Mexico is our largest export market, and a major focus of our promotional program. Last season, we introduced our health campaign that focuses on the benefits of consuming Washington apples (such as weight loss and disease prevention). Our new slogan is “Una Manzana a tu Salud” or “An Apple to Your Health,” which is used in all printed materials. Because of the effects of “pester power,” children are an important secondary target market, and we produce promotional giveaways such as sticker books and back-to-school items that encourage kids to ask their parents to buy Washington apples. Costumed appearances by “Crispy” (Red Delicious) and “Chilemon” (Granny Smith—a play on words that ties in to our promotion of consuming Granny Smith apples with chile powder) characters create excitement at stores and outside events.
New “old” markets
Recent trade agreements have opened up opportunities in Latin American markets that were once major Washington apple importers, and then declined with the onset of increased Chilean exports and Chilean bilateral trade agreements with other Latin countries in the late 1990s. The implementation of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, has reduced the tariff on apples from as high as 25 percent in some countries to zero. While Chile had enjoyed a zero percent tariff, Washington now has the opportunity to compete on equal footing, and we’ve seen sales to these markets increase during the 2005-2006 season. The commission will focus activities in the markets of Costa Rica (which is not part of the CAFTA), El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, although targeted trade support will also be provided to the Dominican Republic and Panama. Christmas is the peak season for sales of brightly colored Red Delicious, and we will conduct “stealth PR” activities, such as delivering apple gift baskets to radio and TV personalities. As stores are so busy during the holiday period, in-store promotions typically are not permitted until after New Year’s Day and, as in Mexico, we target children with “back to school” promotions (the school year starts in late winter).
Further south, a new trade agreement between the United States and the Andean countries has rejuvenated the prospects for Washington apples in Colombia and Ecuador. Last spring, the Apple Commission and the Pear Bureau Northwest jointly received a grant from the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Trade Barrier Grant Program to bring a group of importers from Ecuador and Peru to the region in the fall to view apple and pear orchards, quality control and packing standards, and to meet with shippers. In a recent trip to Ecuador and Peru, the Washington Apple Commission representative for Colombia reported that most importers cited unfamiliarity with Washington apples as one of the major obstacles to increasing their imports, so this trade mission should help convince them to buy Washington apples.
Meanwhile, in Asia
In the 1990s, Asia was the go-go market for Washington apples. While we still see growth potential in some new markets like Vietnam, for the most part Chinese competition has created the need to define the Washington niche, particularly with the retail sector. Fortunately, the retail sector is growing in many markets, and Washington, with our many varieties and high quality image, fits well with the target market most retailers are aiming for. In some markets such as Hong Kong and, yes, China, gifts play an important role in the festivities surrounding certain holidays, and the commission produces items such as colorful gift boxes that can be purchased and given to friends, family, and business contacts.
And on the home front
The Washington Apple Commission Visitor Center has been updated recently to include more self-guided features. Several visuals help the visitor quickly see what is available in the interpretive displays and ask questions that can be answered by searching the information about Washington apples. New displays include information about antique apple labels and their importance in our history, the updated health benefits of eating apples, a presentation on our export promotions, a large Washington State and local area map for the travelers, along with brochures for sightseeing, a computer station to access our Web site and the new Washington Logo products on-line catalogue. Visitors can also watch our industry video while sipping apple juice generously donated by Tree Top, Inc. Our guest book indicates we had about a dozen visitors per day this summer.