Dried Fruit and Nuts

Produce executives have the ability to capitalize on a delicious commodity by merchandising sweet-coated dried fruits and nuts to their fullest. “In a world where consumers are always looking for a new experience, sweet-coated dried fruits and nuts add an indulgent, unique twist to the usual produce offerings,” says Eric Sim, senior brand associate with Orchard Valley Harvest from John B. Sanfilippo & Son Inc., in Elgin, IL.

According to Chad Hartman, director of marketing for Tropical Foods in Charlotte, NC, this is a growing category, especially during the holidays. “Though we have always seen the basics, such as chocolate peanuts, chocolate almonds and chocolate raisins, we are starting to see more unique items helping grow the category,” he says.

Such unique products support growth in sales. “Our Orchard Valley Harvest brand has enjoyed exceptional success, with double-digit sales growth in our last fiscal year aided considerably by Dark Chocolate Almonds and last year’s launch of Dark Chocolate Cherry and Dark Chocolate Blueberry in multi-pack and grab-and-go sizes,” says Sim.

In the past several years, Market Basket Food Stores based in Nederland, TX, with 34 stores spanning southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana, has seen an increase in its overall movement of sweet-coated dried fruit and nuts. “These products give us the variety our customers are looking for versus the same old, same old,” says Dane Legendre, produce supervisor.

Consumers are getting tired of just plain commodities in the dried fruit and nut category according to Stephanie Blackwell, chief executive of Aurora Products located in Stratford, CT. “They are looking for new and exciting value-added items,” she says. “Thus, these items are becoming more prominent as a value-added snack each year.”

Appeal To The Consumer

Giving consumers choices when promoting sweet-coated dried fruit and nuts is crucial. “Consumers will always feel they can find something fresh, unique and in-step with their demands at any given moment,” says Sim. 

Stores can also appeal to customers by marketing the taste and health combination.

These items are a sweet treat, yet still give the feeling of healthy, making them a perfect impulse buy when shoppers are picking up their weekly oranges and apples.
— Chad Hartman, Director of Marketing for Tropical Foods

“It seems the more information circulating about the health benefits of eating dried fruits and nuts, the stronger the pull,” says George’s Market’s Grace. “Having variety for all is key.”

A well organized display is fundamental to attract shoppers. “We have seen success in having major displays, display ready cases, cross merchandising with beer, as well as shippers, etc.,” says Blackwell.

Special occasions also provide incentives to promote. “We have had success with building complete displays for the holidays, incorporating sweet-coated product in holiday displays, and cross-merchandising with like or complementary items,” says Hartman.

According to Sim, multi-packs are also offered in attractive shippers that have stopping power with consumers and draw attention to the product.

Article by Janel Leitner,  Produce Business, May 2017

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