Michigan cherry farmers hope to get a piece of a growing consumer trend during the pandemic; the fact that people are eating more snacks.
The DeWitt-based Cherry Marketing Institute will use a $125,000 federal grant to promote the benefits of cherries to manufacturers of snack food and beverages.
President Julie Gordon leads the national research and promotion organization that works on behalf of growers in Michigan and three other states. Gordon: “With consumers snacking more often, we thought this would be a good opportunity to try to get new product innovations geared to the snacking trend.”
Gordon’s group looked at an April survey of just over 1,000 adults by the International Food Information Council’s 2020 Food & Health Survey. It reported that 32% said they are snacking more since the start of the pandemic. The annual survey also found that COVID-19 had altered the way we eat: 85% reported changed eating habits with 60% reporting they were eating more at home.
“The consensus of the promotion committee for the industry is to try to focus on manufacturers to get in front of them the story of the tart cherry, the benefits of the tart cherry,” Gordon said.
Protein bars and shakes are one such possibility. The targets are major manufacturers including Kellogg’s, Quaker, Nestle and Smucker’s. Cherries are already used in a variety of snacks from chocolate-covered dried cherries to a cold-brewed sparkling cherry coffee drink. A Traverse City company, Deering’s, even produces cherry beef jerky.