Harold Edwards, president and CEO, Limoneira, says there is potential for retailers to grow lemons sales beyond the produce department.
What is the biggest driver of lemon sales currently?
Harold Edwards: We continue to see strong demand for lemons in both retail and food service. In recent years, per capita lemon consumption has remained relatively flat and overall consumption trends are being driven by and in line with population growth. With our direct lemon marketing and sales strategy we are working to drive increased per capita consumption by increasing awareness of the different uses of lemons outside of eating and drinking, such as cleaning, beauty and health.
Emerging markets such as China and Korea present significant opportunities for increased per capita consumption. In these markets, lemons are actually serving as a barometer of improved economic conditions and upward mobility. We are benefiting from this trend and our shipments of lemon cartons outside of the U.S. have increased to meet demand.
Tell us about “Unleash the Natural Power of Lemons.”
We have been introducing our “Unleash the Natural Power of Lemons” campaign to our retail, foodservice and wholesale customers. Lemons are one of the most versatile items in the produce department. Our “Unleash” campaign takes advantage of today’s technology and is fun, informative and easy. Everyone knows that lemons are a great ingredient and recipe enhancer, but they also have many uses in other areas such as health, lifestyle, beauty and cleaning. These alternative lemon uses are represented by fun icon images in conjunction with our consumer QR code that links to our website and lemon shopper pages.
The campaign is about driving consumption in a fun and easy way. It is a given that lemons are located in the produce department, but with consumers’ ever increasing focus on natural products, we would like them to think about lemons when they are in the cleaning, health, beauty and household aisles and we want to help drive lemon sales for our retail customers.
How are retailers tying into the “Unleash” campaign?
We are partnering on a green cleaning “Unleash” promotion this summer with Fresh Direct, a large online retailer serving the New York metropolitan area. Together with Saudia Davis, our cleaning opinion leader in New York, we have developed a green cleaning promotion involving lemon infused dust rags. Saudia values the linkage because we are helping her tell her story to Fresh Direct’s 300,000 customers, and Fresh Direct appreciates sharing a new green cleaning promotion with its customers and showcasing the recipe’s ingredients.
Albertsons has launched the campaign in its Southern California stores and we are developing plans with Lucky Stores in Northern California, as well as Loblaws in Canada.
We link with passionate experts in the areas of health, beauty, lifestyle, recipes and green cleaning to promote the versatility of lemons amongst their followings. The local opinion leaders that we have selected and partner with are experts in their respective fields, and they have networks that we connect to. Our retail partners appreciate our “Unleash” program because we Tweet, use LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest with consumers to talk about their retail initiatives. We also develop videos that tell their stories. Ultimately, our goal is to help them increase lemon category growth.
And we continue to introduce the program to retailers around the globe. For example, Shinsegae, the largest retailer in South Korea unveiled the campaign in its stores, as has Cold Storage, the second largest retailer in Singapore.
We also work to speak to our partners in their native languages. Our web pages, videos and promotional material have been translated into Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, Spanish, Portuguese and French and our “Unleash” QR codes take viewers to tips in a variety of languages.
The campaign is still in its early days, but retailer and consumer response has been positive.
What do you hope to see in the future for the lemon category?
With increased per capita lemon consumption outside of the U.S. and consumers’ increased awareness of uses of lemons for health, beauty, cleaning and nutrition, we are seeing the lemon category grow and we are confident that this momentum will continue. Lemons are versatile, nutritious and have many purposes, and we are excited to do our part to drive growth in partnership with our grocery and retail customers.