How Driscoll's capitalized on a millennial drinking trend

The berry company figured out how to insert itself "into the pop culture zeitgeist."

How Driscoll's capitalized on a millennial drinking trend

Company: Driscoll’s
Campaign: Rosé Berries
Agency partner: Allison + Partners (marketing, PR) 
Duration: Summer 2019

Driscoll’s released a new line of strawberries and raspberries with a decidedly millennial twist. Instead of the traditional red color and sweet flavor profile, the berries were light pink and had notes of floral and peach.

The taste was "silky and creamy, almost like a creamsicle," said Frances Dillard, Driscoll’s senior director of brand and product marketing.

Sold at a limited number of stores on the West Coast and available through Fresh Direct on the East Coast, the berries’ late-spring launch aligned with the start of rosé season. 

Driscoll’s creates proprietary seedling varieties of berries, but doesn’t actually grow any fruit. Instead, it provides seeds to farmers, who keep 85% of the revenue, and then handles marketing and distribution. 

For the past few years, the company has been developing a pink berry with an unusual flavor profile. When members from Allison+Partners, Driscoll’s marketing partner, toured the R&D facility in August 2018 and tasted the berry, they realized the company had a buzzy new product on its hands.  

"We started playing around with it," Dillard said.

The team explored the flavor notes and conducted taste tests with consumers to select the right seedling variety and gauge demand.

"Younger consumers, the millennials, were more open to a strawberry that didn’t look like a strawberry," said Dillard.

The berries neatly aligned with a macro trend: rosé. Both the wine and color have exploded in popularity in recent years.

Driscoll’s main goal for the campaign was to differentiate itself from other brands by introducing premium berry lines that drive sales for retail partners and command higher prices.

"We were really looking to lean into flavor as a core purchase driver," said Lisa Rosenberg, Allison+Partners’ chief creative officer.

This meant emphasizing the berry’s similarities with rosé wine. 

Before a new berry is released, Driscoll’s tests around a thousand varieties with consumers.

"Our mission is always flavor," Dillard said.

The company wanted to release its line of rosé berries in time for the start of rosé season in June.

"We knew the media was going to have to taste it to understand the unique flavor profile, and to also get past its unique look," Rosenberg said. "We wanted reporters and media to taste them at their peak."

Directly before the berries were made available to the public, Driscoll’s shipped boxes to select media organizations across the country.

The berries, a small-batch limited edition, were only available at Whole Foods in the Bay Area and Monterey-Salinas. In New York, a limited quantity could be purchased through Fresh Direct.

After the launch, Driscoll’s promoted the berries on its social channels, highlighting earned coverage as frenzy for the berries grew. 

The campaign received frenzied attention, generating 115 earned print and digital placements, including coverage in Refinery29, People, The New Yorker, Food & Wine, Business Insider, an on-air tasting on Good Morning America, and a mention on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

"For any PR person, the ultimate placement is when you make it into a late night monologue," Rosenberg said. 

While Driscoll’s would not disclose how many boxes were made available to the public, Dillard said the company sold everything it grew.

The company is ramping up production, and more rosé berries will be available next summer - although demand will likely continue to far outpace availability.

"We are increasing acreage and volume for next year, but it’s still a plant," Dillard said. "We aren’t in manufacturing." 

The entire line of premium berries achieved an average price of 30% more than their standard counterparts throughout the season, which started in June and ran through September. Driscoll’s doesn’t set prices - retailers do. In addition to generating more revenue, price premiums are crucial because they incentivize growers to partner with the company.

Rosenberg said the campaign was a rare opportunity to insert the berry-seller "into the pop culture zeitgeist."

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