DEWITT, Mich. — The Michigan Apple Committee is teaming up with the state’s tourism officials in a campaign to promote the fruit as a top local option for big-city grocery shoppers.

In October, the committee plans to launch a series of “Pure Michigan Apple” radio ads in Chicago and Detroit, targeting areas “where there are an abundance of grocery stores and families with children, the biggest buyers of apples,” according to a statement. “Pure Michigan” is the official slogan of the state’s travel and tourism body.

“In the past few years, consumers have demanded more locally grown products, and our homegrown Michigan apples are both locally grown and purely Michigan,” Denise Donohue, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, said in the statement.

The committee said participants in focus groups in suburban Chicago last winter showed an overwhelming preference for Michigan apples when they were made aware the products were locally grown, but they could not identify the products in the stores. When asked how growers should promote their products, participants recommended using the Pure Michigan campaign since they were already familiar with it, according to the committee, a grower-funded nonprofit group.


Other local promotions

The apple committee’s campaign is among recent Michigan efforts aiming to capitalize on growing consumer demand for local foods.

In August, Heeren Bros. Inc., a Grand Rapids-based fruit and vegetable distributor, started its “Michigan Grown” campaign, which provides customers with point-of-purchase materials to “extol the virtues” of homegrown produce, according to a company statement.

The campaign is centered around  blue-colored signs, banners and tags featuring a cut-out of the Lower Peninsula overlaid with a green stalk and the words “Michigan Grown.”

“Michigan has a strong heritage of agriculture that has resulted in some of the best-tasting produce in the world and we are pleased to be able to assist in telling that valuable story,” Jim Heeren, the company’s president, said in the statement.

Michigan growers such as John Schaefer, president of Sparta-based Jack Brown Produce Inc., say they expect demand for local produce to continue to expand.

Overall, consumer demand for apples is rising, he said.

“Locally grown sources are providing more fruit to a large chunk of the U.S. population,” Schaefer said.