Consumers generally have their eyes on a bargain, but not necessarily where apples are concerned, according to apple marketing agents.


Some shoppers look first for their preferred varieties, even if those varieties carry a higher retail price, the marketers note.


“Some of the newer varieties are fetching higher prices, so we don’t necessarily want to discourage people from picking some of these unique, harder-to-get varieties,” said Karin Rodriguez, executive director of the Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program, Harrisburg. “We really don’t use that (price as a marketing strategy) as much. We focus more on the health and the taste and versatility, that you can use them in any application.”


There are bargains for consumers, particularly in the bagged apples, marketers say. But they also say there is value in bulk fruit, as well.


“I think it’s almost innate to figure price into marketing when you’re doing a lot with the bags, and I have the perception that bagged apples are a good buy for a good-sized family,” said Holly Whetstone, marketing and communications specialist with the Lansing-based Michigan Apple Committee. “We like to remind the consumer they are a good value. We also have found, too, that people are willing to pay a little more for a premium variety like Honeycrisp, as long as the good quality is there and it’s homegrown.”


Some retailers will stress price on bagged apples, even sought-after varieties, said Kevin Steiner, marketing director for Yakima, Wash.-based Sage Fruit Co. LLC.


“If you look at the ads out there, it seems like the $1.99 is the magic number on the Honeycrisp ads,” he said. “Then, you see a lot of 99 cents on other varieties. I don’t know that, as a shipper, we can market it that way. But retailers definitely can drive traffic through ads. If you see a front-page gala ad at 99 cents a pound, a lot of consumers are going to see that and they’re going to buy that apple.”


Some apples command a premium that consumers are willing to pay, some strategists say.


The Pink Lady is a good example, said Alan Taylor, marketing manager for Yakima-based Pink Lady America LLC.


“This apple sells for a good price and has been able to maintain that price,” he said. “That doesn’t seem to inhibit sales. I’ve seen features where it will be advertised at $1.99 or $2.29 a pound, which tells me the retailer sees this as an exciting apple.”


If price fuels promotions, it’s an effective strategy, said Don Armock, president of Sparta, Mich.-based Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc.


“The day-on-day, week-on-week movement is certainly important, but sometimes promotions just create extra excitement and get people buying apples instead of another fruit or snacking-type item,” he said. “It captures a bit more of the consumer’s stomach. Some of that promotion is definitely trying to make an even better value out of apples.”


Effective apple marketing has to transcend simple dollars and cents, said Bob Mast, vice president of marketing for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Columbia Marketing International Corp.


“Price may get you the first sale, but it has to be something special to get the consumer come back a second time,” Mast said. “Price can make an impact the first time you sell it but not the second or third time. Consumers are creatures of habits. If you’re a gala customer, you’re accustomed to looking for gala and price may not sway you.”


Mast compared it to name brand versus private label.


“If you have a certain brand you like and a particular retailer has a private-label version of that, you’re still going to buy the name brand, even if the other one is less,” he said. “So, price might get you there the first time, but it has to be something special to get you back time after time.”