Talking Cherry

The push to spread the story of the tart cherry – both nationally and globally – is stronger than ever. The TC Business News (TCBN) checked in with the Dewitt-based Cherry Marketing Institute for a report on the latest target markets and the biggest challenge to telling the story.

TCBN: How is the Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI) funded and where are dollars spent?

KORSON: CMI is funded by North American tart cherry growers and processors, all with a goal to build demand for tart cherries. Today, 75 percent of the U.S. supply – 275-300 million pounds – comes from Michigan  and almost half of that production coming from the Grand Traverse area. CMI has marketing programs in both the domestic and international markets. The primary international markets are the United Kingdom, where efforts are focused on reaching elite athletes, and Germany, where we are trying to market the fruit as an ingredient in baking.

TCBN: Where is CMI finding the most marketing success?

KORSON: We’re seeing success in a variety of channels and platforms. Our website,, was redesigned in 2014 to better serve the industry, media and consumers. It features tart cherry recipes, health benefits and research, news and CMI-developed content. CMI’s social channels – Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest –  are also continually growing and expanding their communities. CMI also maintains a robust trade advertising program, partnering with seven key industry publications for print and online ads and added value opportunities.

New this year, CMI partnered with Competitor Group, Inc. (CGI), the leading endurance sports event and publishing company in the U.S. (both in print and online), to reach millions of athletes nationwide with information about the recovery benefits of tart cherries. Finally, ongoing media relations will always remain the backbone of CMI’s marketing program with countless top-tier media placements already secured this year.

TCBN: Talk about 2015 efforts. What’s new?

KORSON: CMI as a full year occasion-based marketing program centered around Montmorency tart cherry usage opportunities. This year’s program is focused on four key eating and drinking occasions – snacking, breakfast, bedtime (as research has tied tart cherries to sleep health benefits) and exercise (as research has also linked tart cherries to easing muscle pain). Program specifics include maintaining a Tart Cherry Network with key industry influencers and spokespeople, trade advertising, a consumer recovery advertising partnership with Competitor Group, editor snacking product mailing, an upcoming editor and blogger harvest immersion event, ongoing media relations relating to new research and programming, and ongoing social content development.

TCBN: What are the challenges in reaching the consumer with the cherry message?

KORSON: One of CMI’s main challenges is educating the consumer on the difference between tart vs. sweet cherries. Tart cherries are available year-round in four main product forms – juice, concentrate, dried, and frozen. Montmorency is the variety of tart cherry (Prunus cerasus) most commonly grown in the U.S. and Canada (99%). Fresh Montmorency tart cherries are usually only found in growing regions (Michigan, New York, Utah, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin) because the fresh fruit is very delicate, which makes it difficult to ship. Also, a majority of the health benefit research linked to cherries is linked to tart cherries, due to their abundance in anthocyanins.