Over the past half-dozen years, production of organic artichokes has shifted a bit with the development of new varieties so that winter volume has increased.
Leading the charge on that front has been Ocean Mist Farms, which developed a variety especially well-suited for production in the Coachella Valley. To celebrate that production and stimulate the sales of artichokes – both organic and conventional – Ocean Mist is running a “Peace, Love & Artichokes” winter promotion. This multi-faceted campaign, launched this week and will last throughout the month of February. The campaign includes email marketing to a robust community of artichoke shoppers, social media advertising, and sweepstakes prizes.
Diana McClean, senior director of marketing for the firm, said supplies and quality of organic artichokes are very good in February so this is a perfect time for promotion. In March, production will transition from Coachella Valley to Castroville so supplies will be down a bit before rebounding throughout April and May. She said there won’t be a supply gap in March, but both of April and May will offer excellent promotional opportunities for organic artichokes, as increased supplies should result in more attractive f.o.b. pricing.
“Like many organic fruits and vegetables, the supplies of organic artichokes do have some inconsistencies throughout the year, but production mirrors conventional for the most part,” she said, adding that Ocean Mist has significantly increased its organic production in recent years. The firm, which grows many vegetables items, began as an artichoke specialist and has been offering organic artichokes for two decades. She said purchases of organic artichokes by consumers have definitely been aided by increased production and a smaller gap between the conventional and organic price at retail.
Diana McClean, Sr. Director of Marketing at Ocean Mist Farms
Ocean Mist, she said, does not distinguish among varieties or between organic and conventional when touting the category to retailers. Each of those options give retailers choices and Ocean Mist is aggressive in working with retailers to promote whatever artichoke category they would like. “At the end of the day,” she said, “artichokes need to be promoted to sell… they just do.”
She said that there are still many consumers that just don’t know how to prepare them and are not comfortable buying artichokes at a high price when they are not exactly sure what they are going to do with them. That is why the item responds so well to attractive pricing and eye-catching, in-store displays.
As a cooking vegetable, artichokes do best at retail in the winter and spring months when they are typically given good shelf. Ocean Mist is constantly using social media channels to educate consumers on preparation techniques and has developed recipes involving steaming, backing, microwaving and even cooking them in an Instant Pot, which cuts down significantly on preparation time.
The company’s increased winter production and promotion is a direct result of analyzing the data. The West Coast of the United States has long been familiar with the artichoke, no doubt because it is the center of U.S. production. As such, consumption in the West is strong and McClean said that artichoke sales in the first quarter of the year actually surpass Q2 retail sales, which has traditionally been the heaviest production and promotion time frame. And even in the rest of the country Q1 and Q2 sales are equivalent. Hence the firm adjusted its production schedule and its promotional efforts to fit the needs of the consumer rather than force consumers to adapt to the production schedule.
For its February “Peace, Love & Artichokes” promotion, Ocean Mist specifically tried to create a connection with the well-known Coachella Music Festival, which takes place in April. “Coachella, CA is not only the home to the world famous Coachella Music Festival, but also home to Ocean Mist Farms' famous desert-grown winter artichokes,” is the lead to its social media campaign.
Individuals entering the sweepstakes contest can win a $1,000 VISA gift card “to help you create your own unforgettable Coachella music festival experience.”