Picota Cherries: Tools and Tips to Maximize Retail Sales
As more volume arrives from Spain this season, UK retailers are encouraged to market the stemless variety as healthy, versatile, affordable, seasonal and unique.
The European Picota cherry season is underway in the UK, with excellent quality fruit already arriving from the Valle del Jerte (Jerte Valley) in Spain. The UK remains the largest importer of fruit, and retailers only have until August to maximize sales of this unique, hand-picked, leafless cherry variety. PBUK takes a look at the top merchandising tools and marketing tips UK retailers can use to engage with their shoppers this summer.
UK supermarket operators will have at least 25% more Picota cherries to sell this season, compared to 2020. After a very positive start, growers hope to supply the UK with 4 million (m) kilograms (kg) of fruits in 2021, a doubling of the export count in 2019.
“Exports of Picota cherries to the UK are increasing year by year,” explains Miguel Ángel Durán, director of Agrupación de Cooperativas del Valle del Jerte (the association of Picota cherry producers in Extremadura). “In 2019, 2 million kg of Picotas were sold in the UK and by 2020 that figure has increased to an additional 3.75 million kg.”
Position well in sight
The exclusive variety of cherries is increasingly known and appreciated by UK consumers; giving retailers plenty of reasons to market the fruit during its short six-week season.
“Volume is always important for Picota cherries because it is a unique product that can increase sales in the cherry category,” says Peter Brazil, national accounts manager at JO Sims, a major supplier of cherries. Picota for UK supermarkets.
To sell in high volumes this season, retailers are advised to give Picotas seasonal storefront space, either on the ends of the gondolas or on devices via freestanding displays (FSDU), suggests John Valentine, general manager. of RED Communications, the public relations agency. which organizes the annual consumer campaign for Picota cherries in the United Kingdom in coordination with the Agrupación de Cooperativas del Valle del Jerte and with the support of the European Union.
RED has implemented “branded protection units” to display Picotas in the past, which often have had a significant impact on sales. Labels on packaging have also proven to be an effective marketing strategy in the past.
“This season, we are launching 450 storefront banners in Morrisons stores across the UK, which will be in stores until July 25,” says Valentine. “Offering promotions and giving priority to product in-store, as in this particular activity, will help increase Picota volumes throughout the season. They are incredibly beautiful with their purple color and round shape, and make a fantastic statement if placed prominently at the entrance to the store.
Morrisons goal is to sell more units year over year and, subject to crop availability, extend the season beyond 2020.
“We have found that the fairings work very well for increasing in-store volume,” Emma Spencer, senior purchasing manager at Morrisons, told PBUK. “They are used as a vehicle to communicate provenance and price to our customers, and we hope to build on the success of previous seasons.”
Brazil at JO Sims agrees that the opportunities for growing sales of Picota cherries lie in allocating more space to the fruit, as well as selling the unit. “Picotas will always be a focal point at many retailers because it is a superb product with great value,” he comments.
Promote nutrition, convenience and value
Cherries are generally considered one of the most forgiving and exclusive fruits, but they are very healthy and contain no added sugars. Picota cherries therefore provide a great opportunity for UK retailers to market the fruit as a healthy seasonal treat for the summer, especially for women, families and children.
“While there is no concrete research, our view is that picotas are one of the more sophisticated fruits, and we see them as having a slightly feminine bias,” reveals Valentine. “However, everyone can enjoy Picota cherries, and children in particular can have fun with this fantastic, small and healthy snack.”
Morrisons buyers are eagerly awaiting the start of the Picota cherry season, says Spencer.
“The competitive retail price encourages customers to buy the category that normally can’t,” she comments.
Valentine agrees that Picotas are currently very competitively priced, especially considering their unique selling point as a stemless, easy-to-eat variety.
“Picota cherries offer excellent value for money considering their flavor and excellent European quality,” he says. “They are priced at around £ 1.00 per 250 gram (g) packet at most retailers.”
While Picotas are sold in 250g packs, RED considers larger family packs, such as 1kg packs, would also be suitable for those looking for great value summer snacks.
Focus on versatility
Highlighting the versatility of cherries as an ingredient could also be improved by UK retailers. Cherries can also be positioned as a treat worthy of a celebration. This season, retailers could associate the fruit with high-class events, such as Wimbledon and the Olympics.
“In general, much of the UK considers cherries only as a snack fruit, but there are many ways to enjoy them,” says Valentine. “I think retailers need to educate consumers on the different ways fruit can be used. Some of the recipes we created for the Picota campaign include: cherry-based gin and tonic, ice cream, salads, scones, flapjacks, energy balls and fish salsas.
“The past year has seen the home cooking process slow down dramatically: consumers enjoy taking their time preparing their meals and consider preparing and cooking with Picota cherries as something the whole family can get involved in. This is something that retailers could promote.
Use social media
Following the major increase in online sales during the first lockdown, other marketing ideas include running online advertisements on the websites of retailers who click on Cherry Picota’s product. Likewise, the fruit can be promoted on retailers’ social media, and even through bloggers or chef recipe collaborations.
“The window for Picota cherries is short, so highlighting the exclusivity of the fruit from the beginning of June on social media just before the start of the season gives consumers a reason to be excited,” notes Valentine. “The ruby-colored Picota also conveys a sense of opulence, which makes them very aesthetic and marketable as a treat on social media, such as Instagram.”
This season, RED and Agrupación de Cooperativas del Valle del Jerte collaborated with the UK’s top food bloggers to encourage consumer use, drawing inspiration from recipes on their blogs and social media. Retailers and consumers can follow the action by following the handle @PickaPicotafromEurope on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Another virtue that deserves to be marketed to retail buyers is the fact that Picotas are steeped in tradition. On top of that, they have the unique proposition of being the only cherry in Europe to be sold naturally stemless.
“The history of the Picota cherry is remarkable,” says Valentine. “These cherries have traditionally been cultivated for centuries on the steep mountain slopes of the European Jerte Valley.”
Picotas are indigenous and grown exclusively in the Jerte Valley, located 200 kilometers west of Madrid, in the northern Extremadura region of Spain. As such, the fruit has received a prestigious label of European Designation of Origin (DO) which guarantees constant and exceptional quality. “Picotas are a firm, crunchy and deliciously sweet cherry,” says Valentine. “In general, they also have a much better shelf life than other cherries. “
The fruit is picked by hand only when the cherries have ripened to perfection on the tree. The stem is left on the tree and the fruit does not come off its stem until it has reached optimum maturity.
As of this year, the Picotas have been renamed European Picota cherries as part of the Pick a Picota campaign, partly funded by the European Union. “This year’s rebranding is a subtle evolution of Picota’s image so that customers can still easily recognize a popular seasonal treat,” says Valentine.
“The rebranding in advertising and PR will look new and modern to consumers while retaining traditional Picota values. Retailers should therefore see this as a very positive adjustment in product presentation. The European angle also aligns the production of Picota cherries with the renewed emphasis on European quality and traceability associated with the Picota variety. “
The main objective of the European Picota Cherry Campaign 2021 is to raise awareness of the traditional, healthy and sustainable harvesting methods used by the Valle del Jerte. This is designed to make UK buyers aware of the unique characteristics and advantages of Picotas as a quality European product.
Potential of restoration
In addition to the retail sector, the 2021 campaign will target the UK restaurant industry. Picotas will be promoted in publications aimed at the restaurant and hotel industry.
While JO Sims focuses on supplying supermarkets with Picotas, JO Sims Brazil is confident that other industries could do more with the product. “I’m sure foodservice could do a great job with this product, especially if suitable partners are found,” he suggests.
Overall, UK buyers can enjoy a bumper crop of Picotas for sale and on the market this season. The quality would be excellent due to the “very favorable” weather conditions in the Jerte Valley this year. “The fruit is very slightly larger than normal and has a nice bright ruby color, with a satisfying crunchy texture,” concludes Durán from the Agrupación de Cooperativas del Valle del Jerte.