The Next Big Thing

May 28, 2008

When apple lovers attempt to describe the Honeycrisp, they tend to blubber and babble before spitting out descriptors usually reserved for a $300 bottle of First Growth Bordeaux and Mahler’s 9th.   Developed by the University of Minnesota, the Honeycrisp’s introduction in 1991 profoundly changed the apple industry, establishing a new ceiling for what consumers were willing to pay for an apple.  It’s that good.

One of the leaders in bringing the Honeycrisp to market was Lake City, Minnesota-based Pepin Heights.  Few people on the planet know more about apples than Pepin Heights’ owner, Dennis Courtier, who calls himself a simple farmer, but has revealed himself to be a savvy business person and marketer as well.  Courtier knows a great opportunity when he sees one, and now he and his business partner, Tim Byrne, have set their sights on introducing an exciting new variety they’ve long been calling “The Next Big Thing.”  The new apple was developed by the very same bright horticultural minds at the University of Minnesota who saw the potential of the Honeycrisp and steered it to market. Courtier and Byrne are leading a group of 45 of the best apple growers in North America, who have formed a cooperative to launch this heir to the Honeycrisp throne.  A few bushels of the new variety will be available later this year, and distribution will ramp up dramatically in each of the next three years.

We were recently hired by the Next Big Thing cooperative to help lead the marketing of this new apple.  We’ll work with the growers on a strategy to create anticipation for the product and build awareness and demand as distribution grows.  We’ve had a chance to sample the new variety.  There’s little doubt apple lovers will put it on the same pedestal as the Honeycrisp.  Our job will be to help position it for long-term retail success.  This will be a case study in word-of-mouth marketing, which will be crucial to maximizing the potential of this truly excellent product.  Delicious work if you can get it.

We’ll share the name and more details of the marketing approach as we near the launch of The Next Big Thing later this Fall.