Michigan shippers have had their hands full since the first apple was picked off the tree this season, and the state’s committee is trying to provide the pull to make the most of their work.

The DeWitt-based committee has some tricks up its sleeves to help its members move the crop.

“With the Dec. 15 storage report, we actually saw an increase in what we had in storage,” said Denise Donohue, executive director of the committee. “So we feel good to know now pretty much what we have. Now everybody can put their arms around it and say, ‘Okay, here’s what we need to do to sell this crop.’”

Last season, the state was pretty much out by June, but this time around its supplies should be able to carry customers into the next harvest, Donohue said.

The committee is starting off the new year by offering tray pack rebates for Michigan apples. For retailers who run three ads on any of 10 varieties the committee has chosen, the committee will rebate 25-cents per case, up to $4,000.

Qualifying apple varieties are cortland, fuji, gala, golden delicious, Honeycrisp, jonagold, jonathan, macintosh, red delicious and rome.

The committee started the tray pack rebate program, a first for the organization, Nov. 1, and is running it through the end of February. Rebate submissions are due by April 1.

“This is primarily a result of focus groups in Grand Rapids and Detroit, which told us people wanted more Michigan apples in tray packs,” Donohue said. “It’s fortunate for us that we have a large quantity of apples that are suitable for tray packs.”

Michigan committee plans Wii giveaway, rebates

Because it is a first-time promotion, the commission capped the program at $25,000 this year.

Also in January and February, the commission is bringing back its Nintendo Wii giveaway. Select Michigan apple bags will have instructions for consumers on how to enter to win one of 10 Wii interactive gaming systems from the committee.

“Last year, thousands and thousands entered,” Donohue said Dec. 18. “We’ve got about 70 retailers who have indicated they would like to participate, and there’s still time for more.”

Donohue said the committee’s merchandisers also are visiting retailers and helping them develop and choose promotions for this year.

“Some folks might be repeating tote bag promos,” Donohue said. “Those were highly successful in the fall.”

Social media and digital marketing have been focuses for the commission, and its next step is launching an e-mail newsletter with healthy recipes, diet tips and other information related to apples. The newsletter will go out to more than 7,000 consumers who have purchased Michigan apples in the past and submitted their e-mail addresses.

“It will kick off at the first of the year, and go out maybe every couple of weeks,” Donohue said.

The committee also has more than 2,000 friends on its Facebook page, and is active on Twitter, Donohue said.