Apricot Producers of California

Increasing Sales through A Specialty Crops Block Grant

CLIENT:

Apricot Producers of California in partnership with the California Cling Peach Board represent the majority of California apricot and cling peach growers (400+ growers). These producers typically manage small, family-owned peach and apricot farms, with farm acreage averaging between 50-60 acres. Much of this production has traditionally been grown for canning and other processing, for which demand has been declining.  

THE CHALLENGE:

Cling peach acreage declined 18% from 2000-2010 alone, and apricot acreage dropped by 43% during the same time period. To help stop and reverse this ongoing trend, Morrison & Company was reached to help win specialty crop grant funding to help consumers understand the facts and myths regarding canned fruit, translating to increased sales for the entire industry.

Due to the often negative public perception of canned fruits, the Apricot Producers of CA and the California Cling Peach Board were having a difficult time promoting their crop and generating revenue increases for their growers. There are two types of peaches: Cling and Freestone. Freestone are generally found in grocery stores and Cling are usually canned and processed. While fresh Freestone peaches were maintaining their sales, both cling peaches and apricots were taking a hit in acreage and sales.

MORRISON & COMPANY APPROACH:

To support their research and goals, Morrison & Company worked in tandem with the grower entities and their agency on their application for a Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG), which funds projects to enhance the competitiveness of California specialty crops. (Specialty crops are fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops including floriculture.)  The SCBG program is funded by the USDA and administered by the agriculture departments of participating states for the benefit of specialty crop producers in those states.   

With Morrison’s many successful past SCBG experiences, the team got to work on finding what really differentiated peaches and apricots from other specialty California crops and why it was important to fund their marketing campaign to increase sales. We leveraged an Oregon State study that compared canned peaches’ nutrients to fresh peaches’ nutrients and found that the nutritional measurements were higher in canned peaches. Vitamin C, antioxidants, and folates were all higher than those found in fresh peaches. This same science applied to apricots. Knowing this we built, in collaboration with our client, an attractive project for the CDFA to fund a marketing and outreach program highlighting the crops’ longevity and maintained nutritional value. Funding was awarded and was used to promote US-grown apricots as a whole, since the great majority of dried apricots are imported from Turkey. Almost all US-grown apricots become canned fruit.

Our services were requested again for a second SCBG grant to conduct a similar outreach plan including research by the University of California, Davis, which begins in the summer of 2016. With this research and outreach, they will do trade shows, work with dieticians, and conduct public outreach highlighting the health benefits of canned apricots.

THE RESULTS:

Both SCBG applications were reviewed, approved, and fully funded in the amounts of $400,000 and $350,000, respectively.