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Experiential marketing in fresh produce: tips, tricks, and success stories

cosmic crisp balloon
Cosmic Crisp’s hot air balloon tour launches this summer.

Who would pair apples with hot air balloons?

The creative minds behind Cosmic Crisp apples did, and this summer they’re launching an eye-catching promotion – yes, with a real hot air balloon – to promote Cosmic Crisp availability into the summer months.

Experiential marketing doesn’t have to be just sampling. It can come in unexpected venues, said Lisa Hansen, president of the Habor Creative Group.

A hot air balloon “is not exactly something you would expect, and it’s actually going on tour this summer,” Hansen said. “It’s just a really fun, festive, family-friendly – maybe not something you would expect associated with apples – but I think again, the power of experiential marketing is connecting your brand to something more than just itself.”

Hansen joined Laura Rubin, marketing manager for brand experience and trade for Bowery Farming and Cristie Mather, vice president of food for FLM Harvest to lead a discussion of successful strategies for experiential marketing during the United Fresh Produce Association Reimagine Conversations, a monthlong series of sessions for the fresh produce industry.

Experiential marketing had to make its own pandemic pivots, Rubin said. Bowery Farming switched some planned events to digital experiences, including chefs and local bar owners creating recipes using the company’s products.

“All of these things really came together nicely in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to do physically,” she said.

As events get back into full swing, it’s important for marketers to use them to their full potential, including sponsorships, Mather said.

“I would actually challenge the notion that a sponsorship is passive marketing,” she said. “When it comes to an experience, if you are going to sponsor something at an event, you can negotiate and add value to that event.”

United Fresh plans to offer replays of its Reimagine Conversations on-demand at


Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.