POM Wonderful finding new ways to put pomegranates on the map
As Southern Hemisphere countries like Chile, Peru and Argentina ramp up pomegranate production, the end goal is to reach consumers in a growing U.S. market. But if it weren't for the efforts of California-based POM Wonderful, this niche fruit may not have been given the opportunities it now has. At PMA Fresh Summit 2011 in Atlanta, www.freshfruitportal.com caught up with the company's brand marketing manager Jason Osborne to see where the fruit is heading.
For unfamiliar consumers a pomegranate can be rather unwieldy; it's difficult to know instinctively how to open it, while the aril seeds can cause nasty stains if they're not handled well.
Yet despite the challenges of this 'intimidating' fruit, POM wonderful has managed to put pomegranates on the map through value-adding products such as its famous juices. Osborne says the company began with just 100 trees but has since grown to 18,000 acres, or the equivalent of 3-3.5 million cases of pomegranates per season.
"For us it’s exciting to think people are becoming more and more aware of pomegranates, the taste and that it’s healthy for you, so I think it’s got huge potential for us," says Osborn.
"We really want to get pomegranates into families. We think it's great for children, for moms and we're trying to make pomegranates convenient for families, fun to eat and think it’s very versatile.
"We have developed some products that are geared towards children. What’s new for this season are Pom poms, which is with fresh pomegranate arils in a a convenient on the go 4.3 ounce pack that comes with a spoon."
He says the Pom poms are a great way to introduce the fruit to people who are intimidated by pomegranates, with the goal of easing them into trying the fresh fruit itself.
"They then like the taste and are more willing to try fresh pomegranates. Once and are more willing to try fresh pomegranate – once they open it they’ll realize it’s not that difficult and it's actually fun.
"We also try to educate consumers about how to to open the pomegranate, and one of our methods is to put it under water, so that the arils don’t splash and stain the clothes. We do a lot of point of sale material to inform consumers how to open a pomegranate, how to select one, how to store it, and then recipes with how to cook with it.
"As far as our fresh pomegranates go there’s more demand than we can grow, which is exciting for everyone."
Osborn is happy that counter-seasonal pomegranates from the Southern Hemisphere come into the United States as it encourages consumption, and is confident people in the U.S. will prefer the company's product in cases of seasonal overlap.
"It’s good that pomegranates are available all year round because people are more familiar with them and more willing to try them, but our challenge is to make sure consumers know the difference between the varieties.
"The pomegranates we grow are much bigger, they have beautiful ruby red arils, they’ve got a sweeter juicier taste, and that really helps differentiate us."
The Californian pomegranate season has just started in mid-October and will continue through to January or February. Pom poms will also be available in an 8oz size.