Benefits of Branded Produce
Branded produce is creating 71 percent of the total produce dollar growth, with 39 percent of the produce sold in 2016 being branded, up from 31 percent in 2012, according to The Wonderful Co. VP of Marketing & Insights Adam Cooper, who was presenting Nielsen data during a recent press tour of the Wonderful facilities, near Bakersfield, Calif.
In 2016, produce sales accounted for $69 billion and marked the first time unbranded produce sales were under 50 percent, at 49 percent of sales, with private label making up the remaining 12 percent.
Cooper also noted that Wonderful had the most growth of all companies in the produce segment, with its No. 1 Halos brand of mandarins. While 50 percent of consumers buy a Wonderful product – whether it's Halos, pistachios, almonds or Pom – only 20 percent buy multiple Wonderful brands, which is part of the reason that the company rebranded as Wonderful in 2015, to bring the fruit and nuts together in consumers’ minds. The company offers a variety of brands, including Pom Wonderful, Wonderful Pistachios, Wonderful Almonds, Wonderful Halos, Wonderful Sweet Scarlets, Fiji Water, Justin Wines and Landmark Wines.
“We’re better together than apart,” Cooper said. In its exhaustive research, Wonderful found that 71 percent of consumers snack at work, and that the top two snacks are fruit and nuts.
Wonderful is focused on vertical integration – for instance, it's the single biggest bee company in the United States. The bees are used to pollinate its orchards of almond and pistachio trees, and the company’s hives provide about half of the pollinating that the trees need, with the remaining pollination coming from outsourced bees. In total, the orchards require about 700,000 hives. The emphasis on vertical integration has worked well in allowing the company to remain aligned with its mission and the ability to control the process from source to shelf, Cooper added.
Tour of Facilities
To showcase this vertical integration, the company hosted a press event allowing Progressive Grocer Senior Editor Katie Martin to tour the almond- and pistachio-processing facilities at Lost Hills, Calif., two of five plants that the company runs. Due to the short shelf life of nuts, especially almonds, the facility processes only the nuts on order from customers.
The tour continued across the highway to the orchards, where Rob Yraceburu, president of Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds, and Dr. Gordon Wardell, director of pollination operations, provided a bee immersion experience. A highlight, aside from trying to stand calmly while dozens of bees flew around, was tasting almond honey straight from the hive. Almond honey has a different flavor profile than traditional honey, but was surprisingly good, at least to this editor.
After nuts and honey, the tour moved onto citrus with a visit to the Halos packinghouse and mandarin orchards. Citrus is where Wonderful got its start in 1981 (nuts were purchased in 1989). Citrus is the largest vertically integrated component of the company with an ultimate goal of providing customers a one-stop shop, according to David Krause, president of Wonderful Orchards. Wonderful is currently the No. 1 grower and packer of citrus; it's the largest lemon grower in North America and the largest importer of limes in the United States. In addition to Halos, the company offers a variety of specialty citrus like Sweet Scarlets grapefruit, cara cara navel oranges, and blood oranges.
Cooper also noted that the company is dedicated to health and works extensively with dietitians, including having them on staff. With 70 percent of consumers thinking they could be healthier, the company has launched several marketing initiatives to put its better-for-you products front and center, including Halos tree and tractor merchandisers, along with introducing new flavors and packaging sizes of pistachios, which actually boast a healthier nutritional profile than that of almonds. Additionally, the company has worked with retailers to add healthy checkouts in stores.