Andy Nelson, Markets Editor
Andy Nelson, Markets Editor

Year-round coverage, 365 days a year, extending the season.

They’re all phrases that have been burned into my brain after years of hearing them repeated by shippers and marketers.

In the old days, you had most fresh fruits and vegetables for let’s say half the year, depending on where you lived.

Then you switched to canned or frozen for the other half.

In modern times, however, the fresh produce industry bends over backward to guarantee customers they can have their favorite fruits and vegetables in fresh mode whenever they want.

It’s a wonderful thing, of course — a testament to the energy and innovative spirit of the industry, not to mention gains in logistics and refrigeration technology.

But in the 21st century, we have the locally grown revolution acting as a counter force to 24/7/365, and it’s been interesting to see its effects on even the largest industries.

Commodities that used to focus on extending their seasons reversed direction to focus on seasonality.

Among the more notable examples has been the California avocado industry, which refocused its efforts on months when fruit is at its absolute peak, and backed it up with its homey, grower-focused Hand Grown in California marketing campaign.

Now another industry stalwart, the Georgia peach, is trying a similar approach, focusing on a narrower window rather than a wider one.

Georgia in July

If Will McGehee, salesman for Genuine Georgia Group and Pearson Farm, Fort Valley, Ga., can be believed, you won’t be hearing much talk of “extending the season” this year out of Georgia.

McGehee has his sights set on a single summer month.

“‘Georgia in July’ is the jingle we’re talking to retailers about,” he said.

“All our eggs are in the July basket. It’s a little different from the past, when we’d have the whole season.”

McGehee’s marketing focus is so tight this year he’s even narrowing it within his month of choice.

“We’re targeting the two weeks after the Fourth as the key season.”

There’s a “natural hangover” in the fruit market after the Fourth, he said. But instead of giving up on post-Fourth sales, Genuine Georgia Group is taking the opposite approach.

“We think there’s an opportunity to bring excitement to that week,” he said. “It can give retailers something to hang their hat on.”

Mother Nature has cooperated nicely with this year’s big July push in Georgia.

Unlike last season, when volumes came on too early to take full advantage of midseason demand, the timing in 2013 looks perfect, with volumes starting to build to their July peak in mid-June, shippers told me.

A cool spring has forced fruit to mature slowly, which is typically a perfect recipe for outstanding quality, McGehee said. Abundant chill hours over the winter won’t hurt, either.

So with California avocados and now Georgia peaches shrinking their targets, what can we expect next? Idaho potatoes targeting the holidays, and putting the spudmobile in the garage for 10 months out of the year?

The Washington apple industry shutting it down when the first snow flies?

Unlikely. But more smaller-scale marketing window adjustments wouldn’t surprise me.

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