The mascot for the Washington Apple Commission greets fans during a cricket match in India. The commission is in its second year of promotions with the Indian Premier League.
The mascot for the Washington Apple Commission greets fans during a cricket match in India. The commission is in its second year of promotions with the Indian Premier League.

Growers in the Pacific Northwest are banking on cricket, curry and Washington apples becoming as inextricably linked in India as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie are in the U.S.

For the second year, the Washington Apple Commission, Wenatchee, Wash., is participating with the Indian Premier League to promote consumption of the state’s apples via cricket fans.

This year Washington apples are the official team fruit for both the Delhi Daredevils and the Bangalore Royal Challengers. Last year the commission sponsored the Chennai Super Kings, said Keith Sunderlal, the commission’s representative on the ground in India.

Sunderlal is with the New Delhi-based agribusiness consulting company The SCS Group, which markets Washington apples in the second-most populated country in the world. He said this is the peak marketing season for Washington apples in India, and a multimedia campaign is underway. It includes radio spots in target cities as well as advertising in cricket stadiums.

“We are conducting several wholesale market and retail promotions,” Sunderlal said. “Winners of the promotions get an opportunity to watch the cricket matches. We are currently advertising on taxis in various cities across the country, too.”

Danelle Trovato, export coordinator for the Washington Apple Commission, said the state sent almost 4% of its 2011-12 crop to India. The state’s total crop was about 108.7 million boxes, with about 4 million boxes going to India last year.

This season six varieties of Washington apples are included in the promotions: fuji, gala, Honeycrisp, cripps pink (aka Pink Lady), granny smith and braeburn. Sunderlal said demand for red delicious apples continues to grow, but the commission wanted to introduce other varieties to the 1.2 billion people of India.

Big population, big potential

“India is among the four largest markets for Washington apples and sales have been growing at over 20% annually during the past five years,” Sunderlal said.

“North India is the largest region, in terms of sales for Washington apples and Delhi in particular is a key market. We are working on several joint retail promotions during the IPL 2013 (season) and with these six new varieties coming in we hope to see a massive increase in sales on account of this partnership.”

The promotions include nutrition messages, which the cricket team managers say fit with their goal of encouraging fitness and healthy eating habits.

“We are confident that this association (with Washington apples) will motivate our fans to lead healthy active lives,” Dehli Daredevils marketing head Hemant Dua said in a news release.

According to a report in the Hindustan Times newspaper, imported apples cost 20% more than local fruit. Sumit Saran, director of The SCS Group, told the newspaper smaller markets in India are seeing consumption of imported apples grow at about 25% annually while larger metro areas are enjoying a consumption increase of up to 20%.

“We sell 30% to 35% of all apples imported from Washington in non-metros and smaller towns,” Saran told the paper. “With a burgeoning middle-class population of 250 million to 300 million that can afford imported produce, India is an important market.”