Apple Crisp

Funding supports domestic market promotions for locally grown apples and tender fruit

Expanding domestic markets for locally grown apples and tender fruit is essential to ensure continued growth and profitability for farmers in those sectors.

Ontario Tender Fruit and Ontario Apple Growers were both able to access cost-share funding through separate Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership) projects to help their organizations with new marketing, promotions and outreach activities around their crops. These include apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots.

“Ontario is one of the leading producers of apples and tender fruit in Canada and the Government is proud to support these key crops. Raising awareness and demand on the domestic markets for these fruits will help farmers create new opportunities and increase their profits, while growing the economy and creating well-paying middle class jobs for Canadians,” said Lawrence MacAulay, Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

“We’re pleased to use the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to help more consumers get a taste of the great products our tender fruit and apple growers have to offer,” said Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s Minister of Agricultural, Food and Rural Affairs. “We’re determined to help Ontario farmers succeed, and letting them grow their consumer base is just one way we’re able to do it.”

Thanks to a tree revitalization program launched in 2015 that has seen 130,000 new tender fruit trees planted in Ontario, new pear varieties and increased plantings of apricots are now coming into production.

During the 2018 tender fruit harvest season, the organization completed in-store sampling in Ontario, as well as demonstrated simple recipes through partnerships with companies such as Gay Lea and Dr. Oetker. This was complemented by a range of social media activity.

Outside of Ontario, in-store display bins were placed in Quebec and Atlantic Canada and bilingual merchandising kits were distributed that included a fruit handling poster for consumers and produce department staff, and recipe cards with QR codes that consumers could scan to access recipes and cooking videos.

“We are trying to increase awareness of tender fruit in Ontario and other Canadian provinces beyond peaches to include crops like apricots and nectarines,” says Ontario Tender Fruit General Manager Sarah Marshall. “By marketing our crops in areas outside of Ontario, we can increase awareness for ‘Canadian-grown’ and capture additional market share for our growers, and we accomplished that this year.”

The Ontario Apple Growers is also using in-store sampling activities, with a particular focus on newer apple varieties that many Ontarians might not yet be familiar with. Recent research has shown that one third of new Ontario apple acreage is dedicated to new varieties like Gala, Honey Crisp and Ambrosia.

“People go to Red Delicious and Granny Smith because they recognize those, but those tend to be imported varieties in Ontario,” explains Kelly Ciceran, General Manager of Ontario Apple Growers. “The consumer study showed, for example, that most people haven’t bought Ambrosia because they haven’t had a chance to try it or don’t know enough about it, so we’re giving them that opportunity to try and buy through our in-store sampling program.”

A tour program for food influencers brought food bloggers and writers, recipe developers and other food professionals to farms and apple packing and processing facilities so they could learn more about apples in Ontario and the new varieties in particular. Increasing food influencers’ awareness and knowledge of the sector trickles down into their recipe development and what they write and post, according to Ciceran.

To reach Ontarians more directly, OAG placed an advertorial in Horizon food magazine and showcased videos with local apple messaging at Yonge-Dundas Square and throughout Toronto’s PATH, a network of walkways and underground pedestrian tunnels that connect the office towers of the city’s downtown.

And mini recipe videos, new blog posts and apple grower profiles were developed to showcase the versatility of apples and different applications for the various varieties.

Reducing food waste was central to the messaging of both organizations. Bloggers creating apple recipes, for example, were asked to focus on big batch cooking and freezer friendly meal ideas, and tender fruit recipe videos and cards included tips on reducing food waste in the home.

“For apple growers, this campaign is about maintaining our competitiveness and sustaining and cultivating our existing markets,” Ciceran says. “About 55 per cent of our apple production is sold into the fresh market, so we’re always focused on maintaining or hopefully even growing that if we can.”

“This is a very competitive marketplace and our crops have a very short season, so this project is incredibly important to help us deal with competition from lower priced, imported fruit,” adds Marshall.

For both tender fruit and apple growers, funding from the Partnership plays a vital role in these domestic marketing activities. According to Marshall, it allows both organizations to boost the scale of their promotions and be more targeted and impactful.

“We always need to also consider the impact of not doing promotion, so these programs are critical. With the Partnership funding, we are achieving better results this year,” adds Ciceran.

Through the Partnership, the Ontario Tender Fruit project will receive up to $111,000 and the Ontario Apple Growers project up to $100,000. 

This project was funded in part through the Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of the Partnership in Ontario