With the launch of its 2018 campaign on stonefruit and topfruit, the South African fruit industry’s Beautiful Country, Beautiful Fruit marketing campaign in the UK has reached an impressive 10-year milestone.
An initiative that began with a pilot project to promote South African plums at the beginning of 2009 rolled out across stonefruit and topfruit the following year. It has become a regular feature of the retail and media calendar and is now, we believe, currently the longest standing continuous country of origin campaign in UK fresh produce.
Enduring promotional initiatives are rare enough in fresh produce, and South African growers are incredibly proud to have reached the decade market.
There are several reasons for the longevity of this campaign.
Firstly, it is flexible. The campaign is integrated, and while communicating consistent messages about the great flavour, freshness and positive ethics of buying South African fruit across the retail and public relations activities, over time we have learned to tailor the methodologies to the different needs of the stonefruit and topfruit categories.
In the UK winter months, the stonefruit category has been underdeveloped. At this time of the year, shoppers have largely not been used to buying plums, peaches and nectarines. So we have increasingly focused this part of the campaign on retail activity, intervening directly with shoppers online and in stores to show them the breadth of varieties and let them experience the eating quality of in season South African fruit.
It has been underpinned by work with bloggers and magazines, which have highlighted usage as snacks and ingredients in winter cooking.
Topfruit is different. It’s a mature category with lots of competition on retailers’ shelves from other countries of origin. For this reason, the campaign increasingly looks to raise awareness of the flavour, freshness and ethical USPs of buying South African apples and pears away from stores and retailers’ websites.
We want consumers to go on to look for the fruit when they shop. While this is going on, we still work closely with those supermarkets that really champion South African topfruit.
Secondly, the diversity of the campaign has been important. The combined seasons in these two South African categories span close to 11 months, so we run activity to promote South Africa fruit during most of the year.
We are promoting in stores, online, in editorial articles, advertorials, advertising, on social media and in the catering sector. This range of channels means we have been developing advocates for South African fruit across multiple areas.
Engagement is also key. We give stakeholders - including suppliers and retailers - a central role in planning and refining our annual promotional plan. They have a say in what activity we run and where, and from here often add their own time and resources in making it successful.
Most stakeholders have become increasingly invested in the campaign over time. This helps immeasurably with implementing and developing it each successive year.
And crucially, we have seen a clear impact on sales. Although the campaign is measured in terms of the usual metrics - including clicks on website advertising, opportunities to see media and social media following - the decisive measure is sales. In stonefruit, since this campaign began 10 years ago the big four supermarkets have seen volume growth of approximately 100 per cent.
In fresh produce, where margins are often small, this return on investment is the ultimate measure of success and the overriding reason to continue promoting into the future.