(UPDATED COVERAGE, Nov. 10) B.C. Tree Fruits Ltd., the nearly 75-year-old Kelowna-based British Columbia cooperative, is kicking off the 2010-11 apple season with an updated logo.

The new image, which will begin to appear in stores soon, retains the company’s leaf background and adds the words “Tree Fruits.”

The catalyst for the change was an October 2009-April 2010 consumer research program in Canada’s four western provinces, said Adrian Abbott, director of marketing and industry relations. The research focused on a wide spectrum of apple issues ranging from brand awareness and recognition to varietal awareness and consumer likes and dislikes, he said.

The results contained something of a surprise for B.C Tree Fruits: consumers believed the logo represented the geographic origin of the fruit rather than a brand, Abbott said.

Due to changes in the marketplace, the company over the past 20 years focused more of its marketing effort on being a trade brand and somewhat moved away from the consumer, he said.

“We realized that was a bit of a mistake, that we need to make a stronger connection with the consumer,” Abbott said. “They were looking at our B.C. logo as something of a provincial identifier, but not really identifying with the company or with a specific group of growers.”

The company also launched a redesigned website, www.bctree.com, Nov. 9.

For the new logo, the company also collaborated with the B.C. Orchard Museum, Kelowna, to use images from the museum’s collection to emphasize the region’s fruit growing history.

B.C. Tree Fruits distributes primarily to retailers in Western Canada, but does have a presence on the U.S. West Coast, particularly with the cooperative’s mcintosh and ambrosia apples, Abbott said.

“We want consumers to recognize that the B.C logo is much more than just a regional designation,” he said. “It actually represents a collective of 800 family farms that are doing their best to produce great fruits for the marketplace.”

The cooperative also markets pears, stone fruit, table grapes and blueberries.

B.C. Tree Fruits unveils updated logo, website