U.S.: POM Wonderful's aril business growth "on fire"
North America's leading pomegranate company is enjoying soaring sales growth for both its aril and juice businesses, with the products set to soon be promoted on a billboard in New York City's Times Square.
POM Wonderful vice president of marketing Adam Cooper said the aril brand, POM POMs, was coming off its biggest year ever.
"We had a really phenomenal year," he told Fresh Fruit Portal.
"We had record high market share of 79% during the California Wonderful variety season and we’re seeing a lot of momentum building for our POM POMs business."
He said the segment had been an increasing focus for the company, with the brand a major driver of growth in the arils category which last year saw a 28% sales increase in-season and a 19% annual boost in volume over the last five years.
"Produce department dollar growth was relatively flat with only 0.4% growth, yet POM POMs were also on fire with a 30% dollar growth, which contributed to 7% of produce department growth," he said.
Cooper said while demand continued to grow for fresh pomegranates, ready-to-eat arils were a newer concept that fitted in with modern consumer trends toward health and convenience.
"Snacking is bigger than it has ever been," he said.
"I think this was the first year that people ate more snacks on a regular basis than they did meals, and we’re seeing that people are also looking for healthier options.
"POM POMs delivers that perfectly because they make it really easy. It’s ready-to-eat, it’s really fun, has a great sweet-tart flavor, kids love it, families love it...and there's a lot of different usages for it."
Leading super premium juice brand
The company's juice business is also undergoing significant growth, with sales of leading product POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice up 25% year-on-year.
"In addition, POM tops brand awareness at 93% and is the top-selling SKU [stock keeping unit] in food with our 48oz bottle," Cooper said.
"As we take a look at the bigger trends in the grocery aisles, Super Premium Juice (SPJ) growth outpaces the produce department and we’re helping to drive that."
He said that as the fastest growing super premium juice brand, POM accounted for 38% of the dollar growth in the SPJ category over the past year.
The company is stepping up marketing efforts this season, including connecting the fresh fruit with the POM juice brand.
Cooper said that the panels of large pomegranate display bins in retailers would be used not just to promote the fresh fruit and communicate its benefits but also to display the POM juice bottle.
"We know the brand has really high awareness and we think that will help connect the dots for consumers. The visual is really strong," he said.
A billboard on a prominent Times Square building - on which the ball drops during New Year's Eve - will this year feature rotating videos that will be commercials for all the Wonderful Company's products including the pomegranate arils and juices.
Cooper noted this was one of the most visited places not just for people from elsewhere in the U.S. but also for those visiting the country.
Ruby Fresh acquisition
Further opportunities for growth have also from the company's recent acquisition of Ruby Fresh, a leading processor-distributor of fresh pomegranates and arils.
Cooper said while POM Wonderful did not currently source pomegranates from other countries, Ruby Fresh had partners both domestically and internationally.
"Overall we think that Ruby Fresh brings a lot of nice opportunities to expand both our domestic and international presence," he said.
"They have good grower relations here in California which we look to continue with and they have counter-seasonal supply opportunities in the Southern Hemisphere, which we think overall by combining these together will help improve the service to our customers.
"We’ll have greater supply during the North American season, we’ll have increased access to arils beyond our traditional October to January season and we’ll also have a wider variety of package sizes which I think will help retailers sell even more pomegranates and arils."
The representative added there were "good opportunities" for counter-seasonal supplies in the North American market.
Favorable weather over the summer has led to a good pomegranate crop in California's Central Valley, where POM Wonderful has nearly two million trees.
"The crop is shaping up nicely," Cooper said.
"We had a lot of heat this summer so our fruit is ripening nicely and we’re starting to see the ruby-red color that we want. Compared to historicals, our size and color seem to be on par, which is great, and so we look to have a good harvest come October."
He noted a rain event last year in the middle of harvest had pushed down volumes, and so year-on-year comparisons would not provide the full picture.
"But assuming the weather cooperates this year, we expect to see really good demand for the fresh side," he said.
The company is this year planning to get its arils into stores sooner than ever, partly with the use of a farming technique involving shade structures on top of the trees to help naturally speed up the maturing process.