The onset of the pandemic forced everyone in the industry to make changes to how they operate. Some of these changes were to ensure the health and safety of the workers, and some changes were in response to changing consumer shopping habits. Don Roper of Honeybear Brands explains: “The biggest changes fell on the retailers, who have been getting very creative to meet consumer requests, keeping their stores safe and responding to the increasing use of online grocery shopping.”
Conscious consumer spending affects new apple varieties
While retailers were faced with many changes, suppliers have also had to pivot. “One thing that has become apparent is that people are now making fewer trips to the stores but buying more on these trips. After three to four months of the pandemic, there are many Americans who have had a reduction in income and generally shoppers have been more discerning with their dollars. This is something that will likely continue for an unknown period,” Roper shares.
One of the effects of the pandemic has been some pressure on the new apple varieties. Roper explains: “Consumers are buying what they know and are more conscious about their spending. Stores also aren’t offering samples of new varieties now, making it more difficult to introduce these to the consumers. The newer varieties are still available, though, and if you have a good product, you can weather the storm.”
Packaging shift: More packaged, less bulk
One of the biggest trends to come out of the pandemic is the consumer preference for packaged products. “They perceive it as being more sanitary when produce is in some form of packaging. For our product lines, primarily apples, pears and cherries, we’re definitely seeing more orders for packaged product than bulk product; the ratio between the packaged and bulk product is much higher this spring that it was for all of last year. It just comes down to putting the product initially destined for bulk sales into a packaged format.”
Honeybear Brands has added some new packaging options to their line in response to the new demand. “The main product line typically uses a 3-lb pouch or bag, but we’ve now added some 4-lb pouches and 5-lb bags into the program too, to meet the desires of the consumers.”
The Pazazz Apple has been a very popular apple variety for Honeybear Brands.
Successful Chilean import season
To ensure that the apples they supply are always fresh, Honeybear Brands switches to imported apples from Chile during the spring months. “We brought in our largest conventional and organic Honeycrisp crop this season. With the consumers looking to go back to the basics, and with the Honeycrisp being such a popular variety, the supplies moved very quickly. The fresh picked, new crop flavor made for a highly successful import season this year,” Roper shares.
“People will want access to healthy products, no matter the economic situation. Our focus as growers and marketers is to bring healthy products to the customers and provide the right packaging options and leverage the whole manifest to best serve the retailers and consumers. Your first wealth is your health, so we want to make sure we get healthy products out there and do it well,” Roper concludes.