The Wenatchee, Wash.-based Cameo Apple Marketing Association is positioning the apple variety for a strong, season-ending finish.

“What we’re working to do with the cameo is to help retailers take advantage of what has traditionally been a dip in apple sales in the latter part of the season, which is April through August,” said Kevin Precht, the association’s director of marketing.

The attributes of the cameo, which emerged on the scene just a decade ago, are behind the change in strategy.

“It’s very crunchy, very juicy, holds pressures and flavor profile well, is very thin skinned and remains that way in storage,” Precht said.

As the apple category has expanded in volume and varieties at the start of the season, the competition for shelf space and consumer loyalty has increased, he said, “but on the back end, there are very few varieties that have the storage capability to peak during that part of the year.”

According to association records, cameo apple sales in April-May 2009 were up nearly 39% over the same period in 2008.

The change does not mean grower-shippers will withhold cameos from the market during the early season. Association members will be less aggressive on the front end, and will price the variety where it is competitive with the other apples that are available, Precht said.

By targeting the majority of the cameo deal for April through August, the association believes retailers will benefit from the opportunity to stock and promote a quality domestic apple.

“Greater supplies of cameos will mean retailers will no longer be forced to place emphasis on the imported product, and they will be less susceptible to the fluctuations in import quality and spot markets,” Precht said.

Late-season promotions are part of the new strategy, with advertising scheduled to ramp up in late winter. From February through August, the association plans to spend its time and energy selling the variety, Precht said.

“We’ll continue with a Mother’s Day promotion,” he said.

For the 2010-11 season, however, Father’s Day promotions will be switched to a “Get the Summer Crunch of Cameos” campaign, Precht said.

To bolster the revamped strategy, the association will soon release a freshened logo and branding platform.