Talking Shop with… Jeff McLemore

Sunsweet Growers’ product manager, dried fruit, emphasizes the health benefits of juices and dried fruit.

Grocery Headquarters: What is the current state of the juices and dried fruit categories? What is driving sales?
Jeff McLemore:
The dried fruit category has grown over the past four years, driven by cranberries and dried plums. Sales of cranberries have been very aggressive and the trade has done a good job drawing consumers into the category. Dried plums consumption has been driven by innovation and advertising, educating consumers to the benefits of this amazing super fruit.

The juice category, which is ever changing, has been steady over the past four years. There have been several new items that have helped bring new users to the category, one being Sunsweet PlumSmart, which is positioned as a delicious way to help balance the digestive system.

What must retailers do in order to build sales in these categories?
Education is key for both of these categories. Most consumers will attest to seeking healthier food and beverage options. These two categories are great solutions. Tactical ways to drive sales that have been successful include secondary displays in-store, cross-promotions across categories, new packaging options and item innovation.

How is Sunsweet helping to ignite and/or maintain sales in these categories?
Sunsweet is committed to communicating to consumers through advertising with both juice and dried fruit. Since our advertising began we have grown substantially while bringing new, younger consumers into our categories. The other key component is our innovation with successful items such as PlumSmart Plum Juice (for digestive health), PlumSmart Light Plum Juice (a lighter version for those seeking lower calories), Sunsweet Ones (individually wrapped dried plums), D’Noir Prunes (all-natural, no preservatives) and PlumSweets (rich dark chocolate covered prune bites—a healthy indulgence).

You have reworked your packaging. How so and how does it help retailers sell more products?
We have just completed a new packaging design that should begin showing up on store shelves in June. We looked at our recent successes with key products mentions, as well as talking directly with consumers to gauge what is most appealing to them. We feel like we are meeting the needs for today’s consumer with the new design and look forward to driving more sales in our categories based on these changes.

What does the future hold for these categories?
Both categories have a great deal of upside, with the potential to increase household penetration and drive revenue through the stores.  It is important that we remain dedicated to consumer education and communication. Also of great importance is innovation with new products, packaging and usage options to be relevant to today’s consumer.

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