Chelan, Wash. – In an era dominated by all things online and social media, the growers of Chelan Fresh are building buzz for their new SugarBee® apple with some old-school guerilla marketing: they are bringing consumers together to experience the apple in IRL. (That’s texting shorthand for “in real life,” for those of us who didn’t grow up with a device in our hands.)
Since SugarBee apples hit the market in September, Chelan Fresh has hosted dozens of SugarBee-themed community events, all designed to get the new apple in the hands and mouths of consumers. As a result, excitement is building around this sweet new entry to the apple category that is wowing consumers and retailers alike.
“At a time when we’re being driven to live online, it has been energizing and gratifying to make real connections with real people, who are hungry to know more about us and what we do to bring food to their tables,” said Chelan Fresh’s Director of Retail Strategy Julie DeJarnatt.
Getting the most attention has been the popularity of SugarBee’s flavor, which has allowed the brand to open doors in new markets.
Events create SugarBee fandom
SugarBee growers from Chelan Fresh have taken their show on the road, hosting 75 in-store events so far to share the SugarBee story – and samples of SugarBee apples and cider – with shoppers. They have been joined by SugarBee’s honeybee mascot, the now-famous bee behind the apple.
The SugarBee brand also hosted a tailgate for football fans at this year’s Apple Cup, the annual rivalry between Washington State University and University of Washington.
Most recently, the SugarBee mascot piloted a larger-than-life apple cart that rolled in the nighttime Christmas parade in one retailer’s headquarters community. The huge apple cart was filled with SugarBee apples; a small hive of human bumblebees handed out SugarBee samples to parade goers.
Brand strategy includes unique PLU sticker
Chelan Fresh’s SugarBee events are part of a coordinated retail push-pull strategy to get the apple in front of retailer decision makers while also building consumer demand, notes DeJarnatt. For example, Chelan Fresh’s Apple Cup tailgate was supported with radio advertisements driving listeners to SugarBee-stocking area retailers.
In store, retailers can drive shopper traffic to their SugarBee displays using eye-catching point of sale materials including signs and free-standing displays, as well as brochures and other customer SWAG available from Chelan Fresh. The brand’s unique price look-up sticker is particularly attention-grabbing.
“SugarBee apples are easy to spot because our PLU sticker has a distinctive honeycomb design,” said DeJarnatt. “That was very intentional, to help shoppers find us with certainty.”
Recognizing that an increasing number of customers are now shopping online, “We are also working to reach the customer who is no longer coming into the store,” DeJarnatt said, noting that Chelan Fresh is working with retail partners to ensure that SugarBee is visible through their online stores, website content and social media channels.
Outside the store, to drive shopper awareness and demand for SugarBee, Chelan Fresh has partnered with television personalities from Parker’s Plate, led by former TV news reporter and culinary and lifestyle host Parker Wallace. Wallace and her colleagues have been appearing on live in-studio television programs such as NBC’s King 5 affiliate in Seattle, to talk up SugarBee and demonstrate its versatility.
The SugarBee brand is also active in social media channels including Facebook and Instagram.
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SugarBee apples are currently available coast to coast with very strong retail partner support! Supplies are moving briskly, she said; fruit is expected to be available through March “unless they get sucked through the marketplace even faster.”
“Our supplies are ramping up nicely year over year, and that has allowed us to move from being an ‘apple of the month’ feature to having everyday availability,” said DeJarnatt.
Reaction from retailers and shoppers alike has been huge, she said, thanks to SugarBee’s crowd-pleasing flavor.
“Everyone who tastes this apple is blown away. This apple’s flavor is creating quite the sugar buzz,” laughs DeJarnatt. “But seriously, in what is otherwise a very crowded apple category, the sweet flavor of this apple is opening doors with both consumers and retailers.”
Taste testers buzz about SugarBee
SugarBee has also generated buzz in taste tests. One major retailer’s panel of tasters gave SugarBee an “outstanding” ranking of 8.1 out of 9 for “Overall Liking.”
That retailer also reported that SugarBee is the only produce item so far that 100 percent of testers rated as meeting their expectations; in fact, 62 percent of those taste testers said SugarBee exceeded their expectations.
The apple’s appealing flavor, DeJarnatt reported, has opened the door with several new retail accounts. “They are beating the door down to be able to sell this apple, it’s really something to behold,” she said.
SugarBee® is a new apple variety from the growers of Washington state’s Chelan Fresh, which includes Gebbers Farms and the Chelan Fruit Cooperative. Its crisp, juicy and Sweet as can Bee flavor and its attractive bicolor appearance are generating buzz among retailers and consumers alike. For more information about SugarBee, visit www.sugarbeeapple.com. Chelan Fresh is a grower-owned fruit marketing company representing more than 300 family farms; for more information, visit www.chelanfresh.com.
About Chelan Fresh
Chelan Fresh is a fruit marketing company representing over 300 family-owned farms who are committed to growing premium apples, pears, cherries and several stone fruit varieties for demanding domestic and international markets. Our fruit is grown in Central Washington state where ample sunshine, gentle mountain slopes, fertile valleys and cool crisp air combine with the waters of the mighty Columbia River for ideal growing conditions.