BUCKLE YOUR SEAT BELTS AND KEEP YOUR HANDS INSIDE THE CAR – by Scott J. Soares, Executive Director CMC

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Like me, I’m certain many of you are greeting some mornings recently with the “it’s starting to feel like fall” refrain. With the air a bit crisper and leaves here and there crunching underfoot, for the cranberry industry it can mean only one thing; the harvest is near — certainly no news to the many growers who are right now busy monitoring temperatures, checking bolts, plugs, machines, and other parts in preparation of the imminent harvest.  And based upon U.S. Cranberries’ estimates suggesting a crop that will exceed 8 million barrels, we have our “increasing demand” work cut out for us and we’re all in for an interesting if not wild ride!

Clearly, the hard work doesn’t stop after the harvest but rather starts the next in a series of challenges associated with the handling, processing  manufacturing and certainly marketing of the crop. I have touched on some of these challenges as well as the opportunities in an earlier blog and article posts including our international efforts in China, Brazil, and Russia as well as working with the National School Nutrition Association and our partners to expand the incorporation of cranberries in school meal programs.

Following our recent annual summer meeting of the Cranberry Marketing Committee meeting held August 22 and 23 in Bellingham, Washington, I’m pleased to report some further developments of interest.  But before doing so, I’d like to first acknowledge and recognize Ashley Chard, CMC Project Manager, for her good work over the years on behalf of the Committee and the US cranberry industry.  Indeed it’s not unexpected that professional growth typically results in the search for new challenges and opportunities and so was the case for Ashley. Please join us in wishing Ashley a fond farewell and the best of luck as she moves on to pursue new opportunities!

Ashley’s departure offered an immediate opportunity to reassess our needs and to consider a new approach to the execution of our mission. At our 2013 CMC summer meeting, members were introduced to a new organizational and staffing plan that outlined some core objectives and priorities for 2014 and beyond. Central to many of this introduction was the theme of improved and maximized communications. To this end I am happy to introduce readers to our newest team member, Anna Waclawiczek (Vatz-lava-check), who will serve the CMC as our new Communications Director. Anna brings to the table a strong track record of building positive brand awareness across diverse industry sectors, including most recently agricultural interests. Already in the few months she has lent her skills in the communications sphere as a consultant, Anna has bootstrapped a growing social media presence as well as notching up an impressive PR schedule designed to promote and keep cranberries in the news and ‘top of mind’ on a regular basis.

Communications will be an increasingly important part of the our activities and will include consumer and trade newsletters as well as press releases every one to two months.

Other recent highlights reported during the CMC summer meeting include:

  • A reported up-tick in export activity that indicated an 8.5% increase in CMC targeted markets and related to these efforts a recent Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources in the amount of $20,000 for a project with the CMC, the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, and the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism to host journalists from China for a Cranberry Harvest Media tour in September 2014.
  • Also important to our international efforts is insuring that our products have access to our target markets.  To this end, we recently submitted two additional grants of which we were notified in July that one has already been approved bringing the total USDA TASC grants approved to $411,000 with over $300,000 of those funds awarded to the CMC during the last year.
  • After introduction of the important opportunities that can come from a more full understanding of the economic significance of the cranberry industry and the subsequent process to solicit proposals from entities across the United States, the Committee has decided to move forward with funding assistance from the Cranberry Institute and the British Columbia Cranberry Commission to contract with UC Davis toward the development of an Economic Impact Study.
  • The launch of CMC’s enhanced website that offers user-friendly access to upcoming meetings and events, blogs, press releases and other materials for the cranberry community.
  • a newly modified partnership with the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) that will generate new recipes and participation in a variety of NKF activities.
  • “Big Cranberry Meets Big Apple” – a campaign currently running in NYC’s Times Square through September with the potential to reach 90 million consumers
  • a just-launched CMC sponsored marketing competition at the George Washington University where 6 groups of undergraduate marketing students will compete to come up with a winning out-of-the-box cranberry marketing campaign
  • continued activities and recipe development to broaden the usage of cranberries in school lunch programs through a formative partnership with the Culinary Institute of America for the development of a school food service cranberry recipe contest.

Suffice to say our cranberry marketing “pipeline” is chock full and we have ready a “crantastic” team of professionals raring to go with the over-arching goal that folks will be “gettin’ their cranberry on” 365 days a year! A Happy and Successful Cranberry Harvest to all!

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