Most people don't buy produce based on brand name, but one apple company is trying to build a brand around its fruit.
yes! Apples is a network of more than 50 family-owned farms in New York State that grow and sell more than 20 varieties of apples. The company's roots date back to his 1919 and currently operate under parent company New York Apple Sales. That's the case today! The apple farm grows several varieties of apples, including Evercrisp, Fuji, Pink Lady, and Ambrosia. The company sells at more than a dozen grocery chains, including Sprouts, Wegmans, and Walmart. But what the company is really trying to do is build a famous name to rival its apples.
“But how do brands produce?” “Yes!” Tenley Fitzgerald, Apple's vice president of marketing, told Modern Retail. “It's not easy, it's short.” About five years ago, Fitzgerald, who worked at Blue Apron and FreshDirect, was poached by Yes!. Apples' parent company helps market the apples. At that time, consumer brands did not yet exist. The good news is that there aren't that many people who don't like apples. “So it's kind of easy to sell apples,” Fitzgerald said. But at the same time, he added, “There's a lot of competition when it comes to belly sharing, whether it's berries, citrus, or non-fruit snacks.”
What's in the name of apple?
The fruit has several well-known brand names, including banana brands Dole, Driscoll's, Chiquita and Cutie's Clementine. “Fruit brands exist, but they're considered legacy brands that have been around for decades,” Fitzgerald says.
It was a bit of an uphill battle to get a “Yes!” The apple was placed in a prominent location in the store so customers would recognize its name. “A lot of retail buyers aren't used to buying based on brand, they buy primarily based on variety,” Fitzgerald said, noting that apples in particular are bought based on variety, such as Gala and McIntosh. He said that it has been done. For retailers, adding branding on top of these varieties can be disconcerting at first glance.
That's not to say there aren't Apple types that have their own IPs assigned. For example, SweeTango is the trade name for Minneiska, a cultivated apple that is a cross between Honeycrisp and Zestar apples. The trade name and its marketing use belong to the University of Minnesota, which developed his SweeTango through its Horticultural Research Center's Plant Development Program.
One category that has seen increasing brand-building momentum in recent years is vegetables and lettuce. There are countless green mixes of each brand in the refrigerated section. Companies like Gotham Greens and Bowery Farms have successfully become more recognizable household goods brands. Other agricultural success stories include Vital Farms, which was founded in 2007 and went public in his 2020. The company expects its fiscal 2023 net revenue to reach $465 million.
yes! Apple's demand is stable thanks to its established retail partners. Some of the biggest accounts say Yes! Fitzgerald said Apple's Farm Network supplies are private label, adding, “This is deadly for business, but when you're trying to build a consumer brand.'' It's not that useful.”
As such, packaging is the most obvious way to highlight produce in stores. Sometimes the company's apples are sold under its brand Yes! Makes the bag easier to identify. However, it is also commercialized in large quantities using the little PLU stickers that are attached to most fruits. “That means he has an inch of space to showcase our brand,” Fitzpatrick said.
Interestingly, DTC businesses have become the biggest opportunity to convert customers into Yes! Apple is unusual for a grocery brand, Fitzpatrick said. The brand sells the most popular seasonal and out-of-season apples through his website, including subscriptions and mystery boxes.Brand collaboration products are also sold through DTC channels.. “While online food and beverage distribution is generally considered unfeasible, we have seen a significant increase in sales,” she said. “During the holidays, we had our biggest sale ever and our basket sizes were larger than usual,” she added. Part of the holiday surge was fueled by gifting boxes of apples to media and influencers, which helped increase visibility on social media, Fitzgerald said.
The company is positioning apple boxes as gifts are a big part of the direct-to-consumer channel. But overall, these shoppers are different from the majority of people who buy apples in stores.
Therefore, physical marketing is even trickier. This is why leaning into digital marketing campaigns and working with influencers is the most effective way to get people to find “Yes!” You can purchase it in stores or at CPG specialty stores such as Pop Up Grocer.
yes! Apple's marketing mix consists of typical tactics such as press, influencers, social media, in-store promotions, and more recently, in-person events. One way Apple is working is by partnering with the running club Endorphin to sponsor a running group that started in New York City last fall. Fitzgerald said the idea for these activities is as part of pre- and post-run nutrition. , positions apples as the “original healthy snack.''
Yes in November! Apples has collaborated with beverage brand Avec to release a Fuji apple and cardamom sparkling drink for the holiday season. The drink was sold for a limited time on both brands' websites and at Avec stores.
The company also partnered with an upstate New York-based apparel brand to launch tote bags in time for apple picking season. These collaborations are also available for purchase at Yes! apple site.
“The partnership with Avec was primarily for brand awareness,” Fitzgerald said. “We're excited to be able to offer a juice product that tastes great, but it's also helped us bring our name to a new demographic that prefers to buy flavors like apple.”
CPG branding consultant Nate Rosen said it's difficult to build a brand around agricultural products, but there are some examples that show it's possible.
“I think the way Sumo Orange was able to stand out is a good example,” he said. Seasonal citrus fruits have a unique shape and flavor, and have many fans.
“Apples, however, are more difficult because there are so many varieties competing for shoppers' attention,” Rosen said. This is where brand partnerships and in-person tastings come in handy. “For something like apples, I think storytelling is going to be important to help emphasize the ethos of the company, whether it's family-owned or known for a particular variety,” Rosen said. .
Mr. Fitzgerald said building the Apple brand, modeled after consumer goods startups, is a slow, multi-year strategy. “Our job is to get people excited about apples,” Fitzgerald said. “The trick is to get people to buy when they see us on the shelf.”