Director of Marketing Roger Pepperl Discusses Stemilt Growers' New Inspiration Orchard™ Program
- by Jordan Okumura
WENATCHEE, WA - “The way we grow apples is not just about those one or two new varieties you hear about in the trade,” Roger Pepperl, Director of Marketing for Stemilt Growers, tells me as we discuss the company’s new program Inspiration OrchardTM. “It is about those anchors to your program that actually change the category. This program is about being consumer driven and adapting a new perspective on apple growing and marketing.”
Roger has a strong knack for marketing and perceiving the nuances in the produce game. Between his time at Stemilt and his years spent as a buyer for Meijer, he brings a unique perspective that allows him to listen, and respond, to the changing consumer landscape.
So, what is Inspiration OrchardTM and what is the vision behind the program? Roger breaks it down for me.
“The concept behind Inspiration OrchardTM is not to brand a product, but to brand a program,” Roger says. “And not only at retail, but also in the orchard, in the field, in our facilities, and in the conversations that our ownership has about the program.”
Through internal, trade, and consumer branding, Stemilt is seeking to bring apple-lovers, and buyers, into the Inspiration OrchardTM fold. With the Inspiration OrchardTM tagline, “Where Flavors Grow,” Stemilt President and fifth generation grower West Mathison is rallying the company and fueling the quest to grow apples that are not only crisp and juicy, but full of flavors that deliver a unique and unforgettable eating experience.
While Inspiration OrchardTM is not a physical orchard, the concept itself creates its own geography as a vision. This is a place “Where Flavors Grow,” because of an integration of the ground, locations, horticulturalists, varieties, and root stock.
“We say that our journey is an endless journey to a consumer driven place,” Roger adds. “We have combined the signature apples within our program along with exclusive, and new varieties, to raise the bar on how we define flavor within the apple category - and to change it.”
The line-up for Inspiration OrchardTM features an amazing selection of Stemilt’s portfolio. Take the Piñata®. A cross of three heirloom apples – Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin and Duchess of Oldenburg- the apple presents full red to striped-red coloring, over a yellow-orange background and a crisp and juicy, eating experience with a tropical flavor twist.
With fall spices and vibrant acidity, the SweeTango® brand Minneiska cultivar apple is the successor to the popular Honeycrisp apple variety. Part Honeycrisp, part Zestar, the SweeTango has larger cells than many apples, so it shatters when bitten, making for a unique sweet crunch and a way for Stemilt to differentiate its program.
Stemilt has also folded the Pink Lady apple underneath Inspiration OrchardTM as the variety excels as one of the fastest growing apples in the category. Stemilt was one of the founding members of the Pink Lady program in the U.S. and now competes as one of the largest growers of the variety. Stemilt farms some of the most strategic locations and horticultural-superior orchards of Pink Lady apples to be found anywhere. Stemilt’s farming history with Pink Lady has created a superior product in both flavor, texture, and appearance. A cross between a Golden Delicious and Lady Williams variety, Pink Lady apples are very firm and dense, with a tart flavor and effervescent finish.
On the horizon is a new trademarked Honeycrisp program called Honeyhill™ which is focused on delivering to the consumer, a great eating experience every time.
“There is a need and a demand to bring better quality Honeycrisp apples from later winter into the summer. The problem is that with traditional Honeycrisp varieties, acids and pack-outs are diminished as they hold later into the season,” Roger tells me. “We found the Royal Red variety that offered a solution to the diminished quality in late season Honeycrisp apples. This new apple colors incredibly well while maintaining good starch reserves for targeted storage room openings which allows you to offer a better tasting Honeycrisp experience throughout the late season. With our new plantings, we can take the traditional standard strain of Honeycrisp apples and sell those in the fall and winter when they are excellent, and then round out the program with the Royal Red variety in the spring and summer months.”
On top of all of these advances, West Mathison and his Stemilt team have also spent endless hours developing a controlled atmosphere storage program together with horticultural techniques in the orchard to create a season long program that will always delight taste buds. That is what the new program called Honeyhill™ stands for.
In addition to the latest in Honeycrisp cultivars, is the introduction the Aztec variety, a new strain of Fuji apples that Stemilt has pioneered to offer premium-quality Fuji apples year-round. This fruit can be harvested at full color and yet can choose the starch reserves that Stemilt needs to deliver a year-round consistent profile.
And these are just a handful of the coveted and the new apple varieties powering the vision behind Inspiration OrchardTM.
Stemilt has long been known for its progress through brand innovation with a family of products to address the demands of changing consumer demographics, and the evolution does not stop here.
“Consumers want consistent flavor, and while that is a pillar of the program, what we really want to is to create a new standard for the apple eating experience,” Roger tells me.
With the goal of delivering the best apples in the industry, we are intently waiting to watch how this new program takes off and to experience Inspiration OrchardTM “Where Flavors Grow.”