Sarah McRae of Freshmax New Zealand took out the PMA-Produce Plus Magazine Marketer of the Year Award 2012 in June for her work on Mahana Red.

Produce Plus Magazine and PMA Australia-New Zealand were pleased to announce Sarah McRae from Freshmax NZ as the winner of the inaugural Marketer of the Year Award 2012 on 27 June at the PMA Fresh Connections conference and trade show.

Tony Mahoney (centre) accepts the award on behalf of McRae

Tony Mahoney (centre) accepts the award on behalf of McRae

McRae was chosen for her marketing work on the Mahana Red apple in the New Zealand domestic market. The Freshmax NZ Mahana Red campaign was highlighted by the award’s judges as being clear sighted in its goals and desired outcomes, and showing consistent growth in sales while maintaining a premium price in the market.

The campaign made excellent use of the product’s provenance story, aided by clean, crisp and contemporary branding, and took a strong, strategic approach to marketing through a variety of outlets, including radio, television, point-of-sale materials, trade shows, social media and on-pack messaging. Produce Plus speaks to McRae about her work on the campaign.

What is your history in the produce and marketing business? 

Sarah McRae: I’m from a farming family background, and I graduated with a first class Bachelor of Science honours degree in Agribusiness Management and Marketing from Newcastle University in England in July 2007.

I previously worked for Fenmarc, a prepared and root vegetable supplier to major supermarket ASDA in the UK, before I moved to New Zealand and traded for two years on the Freshmax Auckland wholesale market.

I have a passion for the FMCG food industry and love working in the fresh produce sector.

Sarah McRae getting to grips with Mahana Red in a Nelson orchard

Sarah McRae getting to grips with Mahana Red in a Nelson orchard

Could you give me a short overview of the history of the Mahana Red marketing campaign, and your involvement with it?

SM: Freshmax knew we had a very special apple. In 2010, I recognised that the product branding needed reinventing; not everyone agreed, but we pushed it through. 

The Mahana Red brand has fresh, honest appeal, and we have carefully nurtured the brand to ensure consistent integration of the brand image across every marketing opportunity.

There wasn’t a huge marketing investment available, so we needed to choose our channels carefully. We’ve had a really positive response from consumers with around 2,500 fans on Facebook, strong sales at Countdown New Zealand nationwide and good interest from the North American markets.

You can’t market a quality product without a seamless system: our growers, quality control, dispatch, our design agency, and the Freshmax category management team.

I’m happy with the approach I took and honoured to receive the PMA-Produce Plus Magazine Marketer of the Year Award 2012 as great recognition of the work Freshmax has done adding value to produce through marketing. As a woman, it is great to get recognition, as a lot of women work hard in our industry.  

What does the next year or two hold for the Mahana Red campaign?

SM: There are plenty of things in the pipeline. There is a tight-knit team who manage Mahana Red and we find it’s always best to surprise our audience! 

Are you working on any other interesting new produce marketing campaigns the industry should keep an eye out for?

SM: The Angelys Pear – this is another Freshmax heavyweight knockout.