Hort Innovation is responsible for investing the cherry marketing levy into a range of activities to drive awareness and consumption, under the Hort Innovation Cherry Fund. Here’s a quick look at some of the activities and achievements of 2019/20, for both the domestic and export marketing campaigns.
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.
2019/20 saw a range of activities such as delivery of the second year of the cherry mentor program, which is about educating and upskilling Woolworths produce staff on how to store, handle and merchandise Australian cherries, through to public relations and seasonal launch activities via state-based promotions.
Cherry mentor program
Following the successful results achieved with the mentoring program with Woolworths in 2018, an expanded program of 64 stores (up from 52 stores in 2018) was run in 2019/20. This involved increasing the number of stores in Sydney (from 28 to 30 stores) and Melbourne (from 12 to 24 stores) and decreasing the number of stores in Brisbane and the Gold Coast (from 12 to 10 stores). The program commenced in late November and concluded at the end of January.
As in the previous season, the objective of the mentoring program was to reduce fruit loss through shrink and waste, convert shrink into sales, and improve the overall performance of the cherry category through educating Woolworths staff.
During the program, stores were visited weekly and an audit was conducted on their cherry displays, including their size and location, availability of loose vs packaged fruit, suppliers, fruit quality, backroom operations such as reserve stock availability and quantity, storage location and conditions, rotation practices, fruit age, first in first out implementation and staff feedback. Photos were taken at each visit, and advice and training were provided to staff on cherry retailing best practices.
A summary report was prepared and sent to Woolworths at the conclusion of each day with any significant issues raised immediately. A total of 512 reports (up from 416 in 2018/19) were produced over the period of the project. Progress reports and recommendations were also prepared and provided to the Woolworths category management team, their ‘Faster Fresher’ team and to the Senior Agronomist responsible for cherries.
A random assessment of cherry Brix levels (a measure of the sugar level in fruit) was also undertaken, with the results supplied to the cherry category manager and the agronomist. A total of 56 measurements were undertaken from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, which found Brix levels were improved this season. Only five results were below a Brix of 15° of the 56 samples tested (nine per cent) and a further five results were between 15° and the target of 16° (nine per cent). In 2018/19, 36 per cent of samples failed to make the 16° Brix target compared to 18 per cent this season.
Throughout the program the mentors also conducted consumer sampling of cherries in store. Over the six weeks of activity, 186 sampling opportunities were undertaken at the participating stores.
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: The focus of the 2019/20 campaign was to build the profile of NSW cherries in the two major growing areas (Young and Orange) and therefore increase overall cherry consumption and market share for Australian cherries.
In Young, Australian Cherries supported the National Cherry Festival in early December 2019. This iconic regional produce event showcases the famous cherry which has been part of the landscape around Young for over 150 years. Young receives thousands of visitors from Australia and beyond during the festival and activities across the three-day celebration included a National Cherry Festival Street Parade, a Christmas Street Market, a cherry pie eating competition, a cherry pip spitting competition and much more. The ‘cherry queen and king’ competition is an integral part of the festival which raises money for charities. Last year saw a total of $23,000 raised for local charities.
In Orange, Australian cherries supported Orange 360, a new joint regional tourism initiative between Orange City Council, Blayney Shire and Cabonne Council. Through collaborating with the regional tourism operation Australian Cherries were able to promote local product to the one million visitors to the Orange region annually, who spend over $300 million per year.
Australian Cherries also held a stand at the annual cherry auction at the Sydney Markets to mark the commencement of the season. The cherry queen and king winners from Young's National Cherry Festival attended the auction and participated in media coverage. The excitement of this first case of cherries for the season attracted much media including the auction being shown live on the morning television show Sunrise.
Victoria: A launch event was held to build on last year’s focus on micro-influencers (influencers with between 10,000 and 50,000 followers) within the beauty, lifestyle and food categories. An on-farm event was held where 13 key influencers travelled to Yarra Valley Cherries and Wandin Valley Farms with the objective of showcasing cherries’ natural environment, their health benefits, and different uses, to ultimately increase awareness and demand for Australian cherries in the lead up to Christmas and increase purchasing behaviour of ‘occasional’ or ‘never’ purchasers of cherries.
Main events included a packing shed tour to demonstrate the journey cherries take from the farm to the plate, a picking experience where the influencers were taught about different varieties and how to select them for picking, and a stylised picnic to create excitement around how to capture the perfect cherry shot to share with social media audiences.
Following the event, a combined total of 203,513 people were reached via posts shared on the key influencers’ social media channels. A further 3,098 people were engaged (in the form of likes, comments, shares, saves, photo views, video views and link clicks) and there was a combined total of over 545,800 people reached via the ‘stories’ function on Instagram. The key target audiences were women aged 25-50 years old who were key household purchasers and women and men under 35 years old who were looking for new experiences and products.
South Australia: The focus of activity in South Australia was to generate excitement around the local cherry season through social media and to build on the development of the Cherry Map which showcases where consumers can buy fresh cherries direct from the farm.
In November 2019, 20 growers who participated in the Cherry Map attended a workshop to learn about how to improve the visitor experience at their orchards. The workshop included presentations from Adelaide Hills Tourism on how individual businesses can link in with the tourism industry to better promote cherry picking and cherry sales and identify new ways to bring customers to their orchards. Adelaide Hills Council also presented on how businesses can link in with the council’s events team and comply with local regulations.
Agritourism proved to be an important part of the South Australian campaign, with an estimated 150,000 visitors purchasing cherries direct from growers either through pick your own experiences or shed door sales in 2019/20.
A social media campaign in South Australia was focused on amplifying during the post-Christmas period via the Cherries SA Facebook page (www.facebook.com/cherrygrowerssa). A custom audience was created that had a 50km radius around Adelaide and targeted interests including a range of cooking shows, food gurus, food icons, and food key words. Sixteen posts were shared between December 26 and January 15, reaching a total of 144,782 people in the target audience, with 35,310 impressions (the number of times a photo and/or video was seen). The Cherries SA Facebook page received a 20 per cent increase in likes over the three week campaign period and two videos developed in the 2018/19 season were used again, reaching over 11,200 people in the target audience, with 16,972 impressions. At least one of the videos were seen 1.5 times by the target audience throughout the campaign.
Tasmania: Activity was focused on developing a seasonal produce guide to help drive the purchase of cherries direct from the grower, and to see cherries added to the menus of cafes and restaurants across Tasmania. The guide aims to improve seasonal awareness of cherries and link in with broader state promotion on healthy fruit and vegetables, as well promote cherries to international tourists during the holiday period. It was launched at Parliament House in December 2019 and was shared through social media channels. Some 13,000 copies of the guide were printed and distributed to farm gate businesses, tourism related venues and other key avenues that drive traffic to farming enterprises.
The guide was also made available digitally by Fruit Growers Tasmania and through a partnership with Eat Well Tasmania. It was shared across the website and social media channels of each and will continue to be promoted until the commencement of the next season in late 2020. Between December 2019 and April 2020, the digital copies of the guide were accessed more than 13,000 times. While this is still a great result, uptake of the guide was lower than in previous years, reflecting reduced visitor numbers to the state and escalating restrictions related to COVID-19.
Western Australia: The program had two key components planned: in-store sampling and a cherry orchard walk with key media and influencers. Due to weather conditions, including extreme high temperatures and a hailstorm, the planned orchard walk was unfortunately cancelled, and the budget was reworked into additional in-store demonstrations as a result. However, cherry recipes and seasonal information was still distributed to local media outlets to drive awareness of the season, which resulted in publication in regional news titles including Kalgoorlie Miner, Albany Advertiser, Midwest Times, Northwest Telegraph and Pibara Times, as well as Have A Go News and The Country Man. In total this information was circulated to over 254,500 people. Cherry seasonal information was also broadcast across radio on ABC Perth and Regionals, and ABC Country Hour provided coverage of the season launch cherry auction, and five social posts were also shared on the ‘Fresh Finese’ social pages.
The in-store demonstration schedule extended to cover a total of 12 local Western Australia stores. In total, 1,145 samples of cherries were handed out, while 212kg were sold, equalling an average sale conversion of 55 per cent (average purchase 300g).
Queensland: Tasting events took place in Your Local Fruit Shop stores, via Brismark’s Retailer Program, with the objective of encouraging consumers to purchase cherries from their local fruit shop prior to and post-Christmas. The first stage of tastings (a total of 15 sessions) began at the end of November 2019 and ran for three weeks until mid-December 2019. The second stage of sessions began in mid-January 2020 and ran until the end of the month. This was supported by Australian Cherries branding on tasting stands and collateral (recipe cards), 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.
These marketing activities are strategic levy investments in the Hort Innovation Cherry Fund