U.S.: I Love Produce brings Chinese Fuji apples under 'eat brighter!' label
Importer I Love Produce has doubled its sales of Chinese pears since joining the Sesame Street-branded 'eat brighter!' campaign two years ago, and very soon Fuji apples will be thrown into the mix.
During the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit in Orlando this month, I Love Produce president Jim Provost said the apples, grown by Shandong-based partner JCT, started shipping in October and should hit U.S. shores in November.
"With our success bringing the Asian pears to market, we also started importing Fuji apples from China which were allowed into the U.S. with the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) agreement for the first time last year," Provost said.
"After a year of that program, we decided to add that to the eat brighter! campaign, and this year we’ll have the fruit individually stickered with the Eat Brighter PLU (Price Look-Up) codes."
He said the group would be importing about a container per week.
"The Fuji apple from China is different to the Fuji grown in America, not unlike how the pears are different," he said, adding how Asian pears could be eaten when hard like an apple, and when cut they didn't go brown as quickly as regular pears.
"The skin is a little pinker in color as opposed to red, and they taste a little bit sweeter and hardier than a Fuji in the U.S.
"They’re highly regarded in the Asian markets and we sell to a lot of Chinese and Korean supermarkets in the United States, so that’s where the foundation of the market is for us."
JCT sales manager Sam Sin Chak Sum said he was very excited to be part of the 'eat brighter!' campaign.
"The Chinese Fuji crop in general is fine this year. The purchasing price in general has gone a bit lower, however, the good quality apples are still in high demand," he said.
"The harvest season will more or less be ending at the end of October, depending on the location. JCT Fujis are all from Shandong and with our CA room and its well-balanced internal quality, we are able to offer all-year-around supply.
"I Love Produce has successfully brought our JCT brand across different segments in the last season. This year, with the new eat brighter Fuji, we will be looking forward to penetrate the market much harder, and we believe we can set a standard for the Sesame Street-labeled products."
While U.S. consumers are sometimes wary of Chinese imports, Provost highlighted JCT had "as modern and up-to-date facilities as anywhere I’ve been in the world".
"And their standards are at the international level with GlobalG.A.P. and BRC certification," he said.
"With the new FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) laws coming into play in the U.S. within the next year, you need to be compliant with third party certifications. If you’re not in that business you’re not going to be able to export fruit to the U.S."
Provost said the 'eat brighter!' campaign really caught his attention when it was first announced by the PMA.
"I thought it was a great opportunity for the industry in general and for my company. You don’t often get the chance to have something as well-known as Sesame Street attached to your product," he said.
"Normally companies that use characters like that spend a lot of money, so I thought we would find something that would be conducive to children’s marketing."
He said the uniqueness of the eat brighter! branding helped I Love Produce increase its sales and get interest in Asian pears.
"We thought that it helped us achieve a greater market and additionally it’s a great fruit for kids – it’s sweet and juicy. My daughter loves Asian pears, and I just knew it would be a natural for the program."