Hort Innovation is responsible for investing the cherry marketing levy into a range of activities to drive awareness and consumption both in Australia and in the industry’s key export markets, under the Hort Innovation Cherry Fund. Here’s a quick look at some of the activities and achievements of the 2018/19 program.
The first year of a new three-year marketing strategy, 2018/19 saw a range of activities such as delivery of the local cherry mentor program, which is about educating and upskilling Woolworths produce staff on how to store, handle and merchandise Australian cherries, through to in-store sampling and display competitions under the Taste Australia brand overseas.
The overarching focus of the domestic marketing strategy was to extend the demand for Australian cherries beyond the Christmas period by focusing on three key pillars: driving awareness of the season, engaging key retailers and building strategic positioning.
Cherry mentor program
Following the success of a pilot store mentoring program for Woolworths last year, an expanded program involving 52 stores was run in 2018. This involved increasing the number of participating stores in Sydney (from 15 to 28 stores) and expanding the project to Brisbane and the Gold Coast (12 stores), as well as Melbourne (12 stores). The timing of the program was also extended to include both pre-Christmas and January sales, compared to Christmas only in 2017.
During this period stores were visited twice weekly during the initial two weeks of the program and then weekly thereafter to conduct mentoring and to assist with merchandising and sampling with Woolworths’ produce department staff and consumers. A daily summary report was prepared and sent to Woolworths at the conclusion of each day, with a total of 416 reports produced. The reports included information on the stores’ cherry displays (size and location, availability of fruit and fruit quality), back room operations, staff feedback, advice and training on cherry retailing best practices and recommendations for stores to carry out.
Over a six-week period, there were 203 sampling opportunities in participating stores where more than 2500 customers received cherry samples. The resulting sales uptake was significant – on average, each person who sampled the cherries made a purchase of approximately 1.7 bags in store. At an average weight of 600g, this is about 2.5 tonnes of cherries sold.
A range of events and promotions designed to drive awareness of the Australian cherry season and to extend the sales period pre- and post-Christmas were rolled out across the country in a localised, state-based approach.
New South Wales: An auction launched the season at the Sydney Markets in early November 2018. Growers from Young and Orange attended the event which attracted NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, several football and sporting personalities, and more than 30 cherry wholesalers. Excitement around the first case of cherries for the season attracted many media outlets, including television show Sunrise who featured the auction live in their morning coverage.
Victoria: Continuing to build loyal relationships to encourage brand advocacy was a key focus, with 14 social media influencers invited to a cherry farm in Victoria. This firsthand sensory experience involved visiting businesses along the Victorian Cherry Trail, and the guests shared their own content through their blogs, social media channels and radio interviews. This resulted in more than one million consumers being exposed to key messages for Australian Cherries via Instagram alone.
South Australia: The strategy was to boost consumer awareness around timeliness of the season via public relations and social media engagement. There were two bursts of activity, early December and late December/early January, with an emphasis on driving sales after the Christmas period. This resulted in 10 pieces of media coverage across leading print and online publications, as well as a reach of more than 200,000 people through social media.
Cherries SA also continued to produce and promote the Cherry Map, which showcases where cherries can be purchased direct from the farm gate. This season there were 24 participating growers, and 15,000 A3 copies were printed and distributed through tourism outlets. Upgrades to the Fresh Cherries App, funded under last season’s promotional activities, were fully operational this season and successfully allowed growers to login and update on a daily basis whether or not they were open or closed. There were many positive comments from customers reported about the level of customer focus and support provided through the app, which allows customers to find out what products are available, from where and when.
Tasmania: The industry coordinated its activities as part of the Eat Well Tasmania initiative championing healthy eating and promoting opportunities to eat healthy Tasmanian-grown, produced and value-added food. Extensive PR and social media for the campaign achieved a reach of over 115,000 people.
Promotions for cherries also included participation in the Tasmanian Seasonal Produce Gate Guide which was in its 10th year of publication. Some 20,000 copies were printed and distributed, and a new, digital ‘flip book’ version was hosted on the Eat Well Tasmania website. The flip book page received more than 3700 specific visits. The guide continues to be promoted and supported on both the Tasmanian Seasonal Produce Gate Guide and Eat Well Tasmania websites.
Western Australia: The state-based program engaged influential Western Australia media, distributed point-of-sale material to retail stores, and saw demonstrator-led sampling events in independent retailers, including point-of-sale installations. Positive feedback was given during the sampling sessions, with consumers saying they love Australian cherries and appreciated being able to try them before they purchased.
Queensland: Tasting events took place in Your Local Fruit Shop stores, via Brismark’s Retailer Program. This was supported by social media activity, digital advertising and an e-newsletter targeting key household grocery buyers. The in-store activity was positively received by retailers and was reported to create great engagement with consumers.
New brand assets
Using the overarching theme of ‘Share the love’, new brand assets (logo, styling, typography, colours and the like) were developed in 2018/19 to capture the inherent special qualities of cherries, while encouraging consumers across Australia to share cherries throughout the summer season. These brand assets will be rolled out for the 2019/20 campaign.
This was the first cherry season with export marketing taking place under Taste Australia, the Australian whole-of-horticulture export brand, led by Hort Innovation. Working with industry, China and Vietnam were identified as priority countries with marketing designed to support insight-led activties in China and market maintenance activities in Vietnam.
Taste Australia in China
Two profile-raising events were held in January 2019 in Shanghai and Guangzhou. The messaging for the events focused on airfreight freshness in addition to seasonality information and Australia’s unique brand story. A promotional video was created as an effective tool to highlight the airfreight fresh messaging in a creative way. Nearly 80 key supply chain stakeholders, government officials and media were invited to be part of the season’s launch and to strengthen relationships. Australian cherry industry representatives also attended.
Feedback from the events indicated the opportunity to meet and talk to growers was highly valued. Nine high-profile pieces of media coverage were achieved from this event resulting in Australian cherry messaging being communicated to an audience of nearly 4.68 million people.
A specific WeChat group was set up to communicate key content and education messaging to attendees on the morning of the launch to build excitement. An additional WeChat article focused on Chinese New Year gifting was published earlier in the campaign.
Taste Australia in Vietnam
Activities undertaken in Vietnam included in-store sampling, social media and public relations (PR). Three major retailers partnered with Taste Australia to sample Australian cherries: AEON, Big C and Klever. Promotions ran from mid to late January 2019 and a total of 47 in-store display sessions were completed.
A social media campaign across Facebook and Instagram launched newly developed recipe content and also included competitions across the platforms to create buzz about the new-season fruit being in stock. This activity reached almost 800,000 people. The inclusion of competitions and recipe-based content resonated well with good engagement levels.
A display competition was also run for retailers to drive a greater presence in stores and ensure Australian cherries were seen by as many consumers as possible. This generated excellent prominence and helped to drive awareness and encourage trial during the promotional period.
These marketing activities are strategic levy investments in the Hort Innovation Cherry Fund