In Israel, people eat, on average, 2.5 kg of Medjool dates each on a yearly basis. In France, that is 400 g; in the Netherlands, 300 g; and in the U.S., barely 70 g - those numbers don’t refer only to the Medjool variety, since people in those countries eat other dates as well. Medjool, the top Israeli date variety, whose production represents only a small percentage of the total global date crop, thus has enormous growth potential. "The problem is that many European and American consumers have never tasted a date or tasted one a long time ago, so they've forgotten its taste. Let alone a Medjool. We're going to change that," the Israeli growers' association Hadiklaim announced in December.
Production to triple
Israel's ten million inhabitants consume 25,000 tons of Medjool dates annually. In 2022, that was almost a quarter of global production. "But in the next decade, particularly Egypt and Morocco will push that production up to about 300,000 tons," Yaniv Cohen, CEO of Hadiklaim, thinks. "Given this product's potential, the market - and I'm thinking primarily of Europe - will be able to absorb a tripled production. With a sophisticated marketing strategy and a new brand, we're going to begin making that happen over the coming years."
Hadiklaim markets nine date varieties as fresh, semi-dried, and 100% naturally dried products, as well as derived products like Silan- Medjool date syrups and spreads and pitted dates. They sell their semi-dried Medjool dates under their King Solomon premium brand. In Europe, the association's main customer audience is adults, traditional and ethnic consumers. To bring the category to a wider target audience, the company is now launching a new brand, naming it after the product: Myjool.
"For a healthy - 100% unprocessed - snack, you soon end up with a fruit, primarily apples or bananas. But you have to wash apples and peel bananas. You don't have to wash or peel dates, and they last a long time. You can keep the semi-dried Medjool date for three months in the fridge. Also, dates are small and, therefore, easy to eat on the go. The target audience we have in mind is young, active, and health-conscious. Because, besides the many vitamins, minerals, fibers and antioxidants, dates give you instant energy while exercising, but also at the office or school, just before an exam or a complicated task. Why have chocolate or a muffin when there's a healthy alternative?" asks Yaniv.
"That's why in the next year, we'll launch a new brand aimed at the younger generation for a healthy, guilt-free, 100% naturally sweet energy booster snack. From the palm tree to the palm of your hand. To that end, we're developing a playful and colorful brand that will appeal to our new target audience ."
Making the product accessible
Myjool will not be aimed solely at school kids, young adults, and people engaging in sports activities but also at, say, pregnant women. "Research has shown that dates are very healthy since they can help the natural body preparation for birth. These days, many people pay attention to what they eat and dates are considered as healthy snacks, and even gluten-free," Yaniv points out. The problem is that dates are relatively unknown as a (healthy) product and are also quite inaccessible. "Our goal is to make them a mainstream supermarket item."
Hadiklaim will introduce a pack of three dates that people can find at coffee shops, the airport, the gym, sporting events, and, as impulse buys, at supermarket checkouts. "We want to offer quality, reasonably-priced dates in attractive packaging. And at multiple locations. That's the initial goal. After that, consumers will also find them, in family-sized packaging, on supermarket shelves," Yaniv explains. The on the go pack of three dates is considered a stepping stone to slightly larger package purchasing. "If you want to introduce people to a new kind of fruit, it can't immediately be at €5 or €10 for a large pack. Shoppers are more willing to try it at first and pay €1."
The recent substantial market supply growth is what partly prompted this Israeli Medjool date target audience broadening. "Egypt and Morocco are, first and foremost, going to try and gain our market share of ethnic customers, something they'll probably try achieve at first. In terms of image, they have an edge, they'll be able to compete on price, and I do foresee that the Israeli Medjool quality will maintain its lead. Nevertheless we have to be proactive," says Cohen
Myjool: a broad outlook, a new look
The U.K. is the first target destination, with the U.S. and the rest of Europe following. In 2019, Hadiklaim had already launched "3 dates 2 go," taking the first steps into the convenience market. Whereas that product was marketed under their existing King Solomon brand, the Myjool approach is much broader and more modern.
"We're going to invest €8 million over the next five years on marketing - such as in-store promotions, commercials on all kinds of channels, attending promotional events, along with a digital and social media presence. We'll also spend it on publications and research and development. It's going to be a monumental task, but we want to deepen our market penetration every year. That should be possible."
"The average Briton buys snacks 8.3 times a week. That might be a chocolate bar, chips, or a biscuit. Suppose, per month, one of those purchases is replaced by a pack of three MyJool dates. The potential is clear. And should shoppers become familiar with Medjool dates via Myjool - that's our goal - they won't forget and will keep buying them," Yaniv concludes confidently.
For more information:
Hadiklaim Dates Growers’ Cooperative
19 Hamelacha St., P.O.Box 11468
Rosh HaAyin 4809149 (Israel)
Tel: +972 (3) 6389555