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Horticultural Crops

California Prunes' MAP Branded Partner Thrives in a Depressed Italian Market



Attachment Italy-Sunsweet Success Story for USAEDC 2019 09 30


Italy-Sunsweet Success Story picture for USAEDC 2019 09 30

The Italian dried fruit and nut market has been in the doldrums over the year ending February 24, 2019 with volume sales down between 5% to 7%. Although not as dramatic a decline as other dried fruits, the prune category slipped 1.1% in volume and 1.4% in value during the same period. In contrast, Sunsweet, an agricultural cooperative and MAP branded partner of the California Prune Board (CPB), saw its prune sales tick up 1% over the year with even stronger growth rates of 7% in volume and 5% in value during the most recent six months. That performance has left its primary competitor, a foreign label, in the marketing dust with its sales down 11% in both volume and value and even private label sales flattened. Despite an onerous 9.6% tariff, the EU remains the second largest export destination for California Prunes accounting for more than $43 million in U.S. prune exports in 2018 (August – July), excluding significant shipments of processed prune products, including notably juice, that are not separately tracked in USDA export data. Sunsweet utilized MAP brand funds to defray half the cost of a TV campaign that boosted sales 6% according to independent 2018 data. MAP funds were used to produce and air a new TV commercial in Italy this year that was based on significant consumer marketing research to tailor it to a very specific core target consumer. In addition to the sales increases, the positive impact of Sunsweet’s program is also reflected in independent research that found that Italian consumers, a population who eats prunes with extremely high frequency, reported an exceptionally high level of brand recognition with 70% of those surveyed ranking Sunsweet as their favorite based on very positive perceptions of Sunsweet prunes’ quality and taste. Sunsweet’s primary competition in the market achieved ratings that were only half that level. Given all the foregoing it isn’t surprising that Sunsweet has a solid grip on the market leader position and a higher distribution in Italy than any other brand. Speaking on behalf of its 250 producer members, Sunsweet states that, “…MAP funding in Italy is essential to the success of Californian Prune sales in the country.”