A Rockit a day? Why it pays to brand fresh produce

Imagine 25 years from now when you use your drone or another piece of technology invented by Amazon to get to the local supermarket to do your weekly shopping (assuming food isn’t directly printed inside your fridge by then). No matter what timeframe you’re in, the tenets of healthy eating will always be important. So, you stock your shopping trolley full of Halos, Gold Kiwis, Envys, and Rockits to make sure you’re ticking off your fresh fruit and vegetable needs.

At the moment, this means nothing to the average person. But a branding boom in the global fresh produce industry means names like mandarins, apples and bananas may soon be a thing of the past. Fruit is heading the way of soda, embracing individual brands like Coca Cola, Sprite, L&P and Pepsi in the competitive landscape of who brands, wins.  

Having an identifiable brand immediately differentiates it in the market. Consumers will make the connection with your brand if the expectation of quality is exceeded – not to mention an idea of company values and identifying with the story behind their brand.

An example of the power of fruit branding is Envy Apple’s recent win in the US Apple Association’s Apple Madness Tournament. The brand was crowned America’s favourite apple after being pitted against 32 other varieties, with votes from passionate Envy fans ensuring it took out the title over several veteran apple brands and newcomers.

And it doesn’t just stop at apples. Halos are the latest release from The Wonderful Company, who are masters at branding their produce in fun, catchy ways that grab the hearts and minds of adults and children alike. Halos are mandarins with a specific, cutesy marketing rollout that aims to capitalise on parents and kids looking for something to go in the lunchbox.

This is an increasingly common trend in the fresh produce landscape, one that could see individual names of fruit and vegetables replaced with names describing their specific characteristics. It could be that kids will soon ask their parents for Halos rather than mandarins, or G3’s – a brand of golden kiwifruit from Kiwi company Zespri that have gained international acclaim for their high yields and appeal to consumers.

Another local example of fruit branding is Rockit Apples, which have developed an image around being a healthy, convenient snack food.

The three selling points listed on the company’s website are health benefits, flavour and convenience. With this focus, the company has naturally cross-bred the world’s first miniature apple and packaged it in a Rockit tube, which makes it easy to grab off the shelf and convenient to store at home.

A big challenge in fruit branding is consistency. Firstly, is the product available throughout the year? If a brand can’t provide consumers with year-round goods, it risks losing them to another brand. Since beginning with two orchards in the Hawke’s Bay, the Rockit brand now has licensed growers in the UK, USA, Australia, Belgium, Italy, Germany, France and many more to keep up with demand. Rockit apples are also now available for all 12 months.

Secondly, can the brand offer consumers a consistent product for each sale? A key factor in this is how the fruit is graded and sorted. Rockit uses Compac’s Spectrim technology, which analyses approximately 300 images of every piece of fruit to ensure it meets the brand’s standards. Nothing turns consumers off a brand faster than receiving an inferior product, and that’s why grading and sorting is so important when it comes to managing a fresh produce brand.

In mid-2016, Rockit announced it was experiencing 250 per cent growth year-on-year. By tapping into an untouched market and creating a strong brand that ticks the boxes for a number of different walks of life, Rockit has become synonymous with quality, consistency and convenience.

Looking at the success of Rockit apples and Halos, it’s clear there’s an increasing demand for fresh produce. There are many societal influences on this trend, as people become more interested in healthy eating while also wanting to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle.

In the past, food that was considered ‘convenient’ was likely to be processed. The modern, health-conscious consumer has moved away from accepting processed foods and is now demanding produce that is fresh, healthy and convenient – the market is responding with branded fruit and vegetables that meet these needs.

It’s an exciting time to be involved with the fresh produce industry. As consumers begin looking for products that reflect their lifestyle and values, branding will continue to grow into an essential part of producers marketing plan.

After all, we live in a world where share-ability and relatability build reputation and sales – where buying decisions are influenced by the people we surround ourselves with and look up to. Strong branding lends itself well to word of mouth and being able to fulfil a gap in consumer’s lifestyles will go a long way to achieving long term, global success. 

  • Perry Sansom is the vice president of marketing and product at Compac Sort. 

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