Spanish Persimons put in a solid performance during the 2015/16 campaign in spite of weather-related issues curbing the production rises seen in recent years.
Although planted area continues to expand at an average annual rate of 20 per cent, last summer’s intense heat wave and localised hailstorms in the autumn meant the volume of fruit sold under the Ribera del Xúquer DO-certification were roughly in line with the previous season’s 200,000-tonne total.
“This was in spite of the season finishing a full month earlier than usual,” says Dominic Weaver from Red Communications, the company behind Foods from Spain’s Spanish Persimon campaign in the UK. “The size of this year’s fruit was also up significantly, which reduced volumes. If size and the length of season had been closer to a normal year then the total sold in the UK would have been up considerably once again.”
Over the past decade the persimmon has gone from being a relatively unknown exotic fruit to one that supermarkets and many shoppers look forward to every year.
“According to retail buyers when it is on the shelves from mid-October to early February it regularly outsells mainstream exotics such as mangoes and kiwifruit,” says Weaver.
In the ten years since its launch, sales have increased from a few thousand fruits to around 20m in the 2015/16 season. The focus of the campaign has been on introducing the fruit to as many new shoppers as possible – be it through in-store samplings, online promotions or via labels on packaging containing information about its provenance and season and how to eat it.
“The approach of the campaign has been inclusive, aiming to get suppliers, retailers, journalists and bloggers involved from the outset,” says Weaver.
The support of retailers through price promotions and prominent in-store displays has been key to its success, as has their development of attractive, convenient packaging formats. Whereas the fruit was originally just sold loose, shoppers now have the option of purchasing two, four and the most popular three-pack format.
Highlights of this season’s campaign include Asda’s Halloween-themed Perilous Persimon packs; in-store point-of-sale material and drop-down recipe banners at Morrisons; and Tesco’s education labels on packs. The promotional drive also featured a competition for bloggers to develop recipes incorporating the fruit, and educational roadshows and workshops aimed at children.
“The campaign has engaged with UK schools for several years, inviting kids, their parents and teachers to find out about the origin and characteristics of DO-protected Spanish persimmon,” Weaver explains. “This year we worked with Natasha Gavin, who runs ‘I Know Why It’s Yum Mum’ an ongoing educational roadshow that aims to get children eating healthily. We worked with educational magazines to run a competition for schools to win one of ten workshops with Natasha, all of which incorporated Spanish persimon.
The fruit’s growing popularity has seen it appearing as a tea flavour, included in organic box-schemes and on restaurant menus and even in ‘grow your own persimon’ features in the national press.