Raised in the Okanagan
The Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (PARC) sitting high on the hillside above Summerland’s Trout Creek, is a high-level security facility for research and development of various fruit varieties.
PARC is owned by the federal government and has a long and interesting history with its labs and kitchens having played an instrumental part in the success of a number of fruit-based businesses such as Summerland Sweets and the Kettle Valley Dried Fruit Company.
Launch of something new
This year was particularly newsworthy for PARC, largely due to an apple variety developed at the research station and formerly known as the SPA493. The apple which has been in development for 30+ years, is a cross between the Splendor and Gala apples.
Okanagan Plant Improvement Corporation (PICO), a private company located in Summerland, is the representative of the Canadian government’s breeding program at PARC. Salish is one of the apples that PICO is commercializing. John Kingsmill, CEO and GM of PICO, describes the apple; “it’s very juicy, slightly tangy, crisp, and a lovely eating experience.”
Launched to great fanfare in Vancouver on Oct 13 at the UBC Apple Festival, the SPA493′s new name was revealed to be Salish™, a name given to it by Dr. Cheryl Hampson the apple’s breeder.
The Honourable Ron Cannan, MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, had the honour of introducing the Salish to the crowd who had gathered for the event. “This is a delicious example of government and industry working together to deliver new market opportunities to our farmers,” said MP Cannan. “When you taste the Salish apple here today, you are sampling the sweet rewards of many years of research and investments in innovation that will pay off for the farmers that grow this tasty achievement.”
Salish was developed and tested by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists in partnership with PICO and is one of the first apples to be included in PICO’s new ‘value-chain’ program branded ‘Born in BC. Raised in the Okanagan’.
This came about by planning for new commercial opportunities through value-added programs initiated by PICO. In October the realization of a long-held dream and months of hard work became a reality with the launch of the ‘value-chain’ program on the weekend of the apple festival.
Two apples qualify for new program
In weight, apples are Canadaʼs largest fruit crop – more than a billion are grown in BC each year and the industry contributes around $720 million to the economy annually. It’s a tough game for the growers however, and in too many cases they are selling their fruit for less than what it costs to produce. This is one of the reasons PICO set out to find ways of improving the situation for their growers and with the Salish, new opportunities are opening up.
The Aurora Golden Gala is another apple that was deemed to be suited to the ‘value-chain’ program. Due to its delicate nature yet highly valued taste and texture, the pretty Aurora makes a good partner for the Salish in the new program.
By the weekend of the UBC launch, both the Aurora Golden Gala and Salish apples were placed in select Lower Mainland stores such as Urban Fare, Whole Foods, Choices, IGA Marketplaces and a few other choice retailers on Granville Island.
The apples were kept under wraps until the Salish name had been publicly revealed, an effort that was strategically orchestrated by Rob Smith of BerryMobile, the distributor for the higher-end apples.
Since the initial launch additional retailers have been added in the Lower Mainland, Whistler and the Okanagan Valley.
Targeting specific markets – a team effort
Ellie van Nie is a marketing consultant who works as a Brand and Marketing Manager in the consumer packaged goods industry in commodity categories such as pasta, rice and milk.
Ken Haddrell, Manager of Operations for PICO, contacted Ellie to help create the new ‘value-chain’ program that would offer added-value products to the consumer. Once Ellie was brought on board, she contacted Tracy Cobb of Sky Communications, to handle public relations and media. Tracy having worked extensively in PR over the past 20 years has experience both nationally and internationally including working in a variety of sectors such as consumer products, B2B, not-for-profit, food and hospitality, tourism and others. At the same time, Ellie contacted Stephanie Seaton of Unlimited Vision to develop the creative for the brand logos, all packaging and in-store point of sale materials.
For the PICO October launch, Tracy, working with Agriculture Canada created the media packages for the naming program while Ellie came up with the overall strategy and wrote the stories for the two apple varieties.
Ken Haddrell, said of the success of the program; “We have growers committed to packing their fruit at an alternate house, and a marketer in Vancouver, Rob Smith who will sell the fruit to select retailers. This new approach will be excellent for all involved; growers, retailers, packers and consumers.”
Considering how well the Salish and Aurora Golden Gala have sold since the launch of the ‘value-chain’ program in October, it would appear that they have found themselves a winner.
Update: One month after the launch of the new Salish apple, all apples have been pre-sold.
article/photography by Stephanie Seaton