California-based Wonderful Company is aiming to provide a year-round supply of its market-leading mandarin brand, Halos, having for the first time this year brought up fruit from the Southern Hemisphere during the summer months.
In addition, with the 2018-19 season now getting underway, the company is ramping up marketing efforts for the brand, which now has a 52% market share and is seeing double-digit annual growth.
Speaking to Fresh Fruit Portal at last month's PMA Fresh Summit held in Orlando, Florida, Wonderful's vice president of marketing Adam Cooper said the company had received some trial volumes from key counter-seasonal producing countries earlier this year.
"We had Halos in the summer for the first time this year as a small test where we brought in fruit from South America, South Africa, and Australia," he said. The fruit was produced by select third-party growers.
"We’re finding the retailers that took advantage of that are seeing really solid growth in their summer mandarin category compared to those stores that are not in the Halos brand. So the brand is translating to year-round success."
He explained that the long-term vision was to plug the domestic mandarin supply gap over the Northern Hemisphere summer months, but he emphasized that the company would take its time to ensure high quality is maintained.
"This year we just chose the Murcott variety, which is the back half of the season. Once we figure that out we’ll build that up, and hopefully make that eventually nationwide," he said.
"We have a very high standard, so if it doesn’t meet the Halos brand spec, we do not put it in the Halos bag. I think the retailers are really recognizing that superior quality to anything else in the market."
Wonderful's 2017-18 Halos season was the biggest-ever, Cooper said. The brand now has a 52% market share, driven in part by a massive marketing campaign that included providing cardboard Halos trees to around 10,000 stores around the country to help them boost sales.
Stores that used the Halos trees saw double the sales growth rate of stores that did not use them, he said.
"In produce, it’s hard to find growth. These were the key to growth, and overall Halos became 27% of all dollar produce growth last year. That’s a huge amount for a single brand," he said.
"That’s why we’re doubling down on this - we’ve got even a bigger program. Last year we had 10,000 stores, this year we expect to be in at least 20,000 stores."
He said the quality was looking excellent for the 2018-19 season, with the first domestic fruit now arriving in the market.
"We’re expecting major growth this year, in the double-digits. Last year we added a lot of new quality measures, both in the fields in the plants, to make sure.to make sure that we’re only putting out great quality, And I think those learnings will translate to better quality even this year.
"I think we have more support than we’ve ever had before - we've got a US$30million campaign. So we’re really excited about that momentum."
As with other produce items Wonderful sells like pistachios, almonds, and lemons, Cooper said there is a substantial investment plan to increase production.
Asked where he saw the future of the mandarin category in the U.S. market, he said: "I still think we’re just getting started."
"There's a lot of upsides. Today just over about 50% of the U.S. buys mandarins on any given year, and there’s no reason why that can’t be 60%, 70%, even 80% like grapes, apples and bananas," he said.
"It’s the best fruit there is, and so that’s why we think the Halos brand will be the brand that really catapults the category to that level."
Marketing campaigns for Wonderful Pistachios and POM Wonderful
Meanwhile, the company's POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, which last year saw sales jump by a quarter, is coming out with its first big marketing campaign in four years.
The campaign includes a commercial featuring a 'worry monster,' a large creature who exists solely to undermine their human counterparts’ self-esteem and healthful habits.
Fresh pomegranates and arils, the latter of which are sold under the POM POMS brand, are also marketed alongside the juice in stores to foster a connection between the products.
The company also recently announced that Wonderful Pistachios have joined forces with The Grinch to promote holiday snacking, coinciding with the launch of the new movie out in November.
Cooper said that the two green icons, Wonderful Pistachios and the children's character, are a perfect combination.
New flavors have also been announced for Wonderful Pistachios No Shells - Honey Roasted and Chili Roasted. They will launch in mid-2019.
No Shells is now the fastest-growing snack brand in the U.S., enjoying 30% growth last year.