The berry best

IF the fairy tale of Snow White taught us anything it was that the best looking fruit is not always the tastiest.

And while there’s no suggestion that any of the fruit on supermarket shelves will poison you, taste has become a victim of aggressive fruit and vegetable retailing, where appearance is everything.

However, a WA fruit and vegetable wholesaler, Etherington, and a group of strawberry growers are poised to turn the tables on bland berries with the help of some eye-catching bees.

Etherington general manager Grant Etherington has taken some of the basic principles of marketing and branding and applied them to strawberries. But not just any berries – these are the sweetest, juiciest berries available in the market.

Etherington has even developed a simple test to ensure a high sugar content in each berry.

In conjunction with marketing and design firm Braincells, The Bees Knees brand was developed to position these pick-of-the-crop strawberries in the fruit and vegetable market.

Employing techniques more

common in the garish pre-packaged food aisles, The Bees Knees straw-berries boldly state their claim with in-store signage and a big, smiling bee.

Against a backdrop of beans and apples in the fruit and vegetable sections, the Bees Knees berries have proved very popular in the first few weeks in selected retail outlets.

Mr Etherington said the marketing strategy hinged on developing a brand that had good recall for shoppers.

“We wanted to do something very different and going back to the raw product we decided to let the fruit talk for itself,” Mr Etherington said.

In essence, this is about marketing strawberries as a commodity not unlike any other product on the supermarket shelves, but this represents a big shift in thinking for the fresh fruit and vegetable industry.

Mr Etherington sees other opportunities in the market, especially for pre-packed produce and larger items that consumers buy as single items, such as melons and pineapples.

The Bees Knees hopes to capture up to 40 per cent of the $20 million local strawberry market.

The task now is to convince shoppers to pay a little more for a consistent, high quality product.

Braincells director Howard Cearns said Mr Etherington came to him with a desire to get these high quality strawberries out into the market-place.

The Bees Knees was picked for its association with high quality and the natural link between bees, honey and sweet fruit, Mr Cearns said.

“It was his (Mr Etherington’s) idea in terms of giving people some understanding of what good fruit is,” he said.

“He came to us to see how we could develop a brand and use it to get to the market.”

Bees Knees has developed its marketing strategy around the promise of consistently sweet strawberries

Before the berries are packed into punnets, a number of berries are randomly sampled and a sample of juice is taken to test for brix – a measure of sugar in the berry.

The consistently high level of brix ensures a consistently sweet berry.

The Chandler fruit variety is being used exclusively to maintain a consistent taste, texture and sweetness, with plans to introduce new varieties as the brand develops.

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