The victim of its own success, growers of Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) Spanish Persimon are having to fight hard to protect their brand and position in the market place now there are various alternatives on sale. PBUK investigates the plan to reinforce the UK marketing campaign for the special fruit.
Looking back 11 years, only a few thousand PDO Spanish Persimon from Spain’s Ribera del Xúquer valley in Valencia were sold on the UK market.
Thanks to Foods from Spain (part of the Spanish Commercial Office in the UK) promoting the PDO fruit since 2005 and UK retailers becoming heavily involved, what was once a niche exotic product has evolved into a fruit that regularly outsells mangoes, pineapples and kiwifruit during its season.
Now, approximately 25 million units are sold each season, which runs from October to late January, according to RED Communications, which jointly coordinates the UK campaign.
The category has grown considerably; impacting positively on other related (and previously relatively small volume) products such as Sharon fruit. In 2016 persimmon and Sharon fruit was one of the five fastest-growing fresh produce categories in the UK, according to Kantar Worldpanel figures.
As retail listings have increased, PDO Spanish Persimon growers have expanded their acreage. At the same time, citrus growers in Valencia and other Spanish regions have grubbed hectares of their non-profit-making citrus to plant standard persimmon. Even in South Africa, there is has been more interest in developing sales of persimmon.
As a result, there are now many other non-PDO persimmon alternatives on sale in the UK that the regulatory council Kaki de la Ribera del Xúquer (which controls the PDO certification for the fruit) claims do not match the characteristics and flavour of the larger Rojo Brillante variety grown in Ribera del Xúquer.
“Spanish citrus has had a difficult run over the last decade; there have been many instances of growers grubbing their citrus groves to replace them with persimmon,” explains Dominic Weaver, the managing director of RED Communications.
“What has happened is lots of persimmons are coming in [to the UK] from new plantings in Valencia and other parts of Spain but they’re not protected by the European Union’s PDO status.”
The new focus
To address the issue, the PDO council is changing the emphasis of the promotional drive to a PDO-branded campaign rather than just a Spanish Persimon initiative.
The shift is designed to communicate the benefits of the PDO fruit that is exclusively grown in the Ribera del Xúquer valley by explaining the characteristics of the valley and how that influences the colour and flavour of the fruit.
“The approach is to ensure that suppliers and retailers, as well as shoppers, know that Spanish Persimon is covered by Protected Denomination of Origin status,” Weaver tells PBUK.
“This basically means they know it comes from growers who are incredibly experienced at producing this fruit, and from a region that produces fruit with a distinctive flavour, shape and texture, as well as a guaranteed quality.”
For retailers and suppliers the campaign aims to drive home the message that supplying and listing PDO Spanish Persimon is the best choice because it’s a premium fruit that has been supported by a marketing campaign for more than 10 years, which adds significant value.
For shoppers, the promotions will explain that PDO Spanish Persimon is special because it has a distinctive taste and texture that is unique to a specific area of Spain where there is a long tradition of growing the fruit.
Incidentally, Weaver claims that last season PDO Spanish Persimon had a far lower rate of customer complaints in the UK than non-PDO persimmon.
“Generally, because non-PDO fruit is not controlled in any way, the quality is lower,” he states. “PDO fruit is protected for a reason – it has been recognised as being special.”
Indeed, Weaver notes that PDO Spanish Persimon adds value for UK buyers and consumers for two reasons.
“PDO Spanish Persimon is delicious and is grown by the most experienced farmers to guaranteed standards of quality,” he explains. “In the UK, this is comparable to Melton Mowbray pork pies or Stilton cheese, for example.
“Secondly, PDO Spanish Persimon is supported by an awareness campaign, while other persimmons are not.”
The success of the fruit also comes down to the universal appeal of persimmon. It’s a fruit that is easy to understand – it’s eaten like an apple, with the skin on, and there are no pips, seeds or stones.
“This makes them appealing to families with children,” says Weaver. “They are great for packed lunches, desserts and home snacking.”
PDO Spanish Persimon has been particularly successful in supermarkets such as Morrisons, which was one of the first retailers to list the fruit and really get behind the campaign.
“Morrisons’ customers love them,” claims Weaver. “We have some exciting things going on with the UK retailers this year – things we haven’t seen them do with fresh produce before. But I can’t reveal more yet.”
The first arrivals of the new 2017 season are expected to hit the shelves of UK supermarkets during the first week of October. The volume this year remains to be confirmed.