Capturing Demand for Functional Foods: A Case Study from the Tart Cherry Industry

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Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI) is an industry support organization funded by North American tart cherry growers and processors. In the mid-2000s, the president of CMI was contemplating the future of the U.S. tart cherry industry and how CMI could contribute to industry success in the new century. The year 2002 had been a bell-weather in terms of production (a weather event resulted in an 80% crop loss across North America) and market competition (significant level of imports from outside North America for the first time in history). Changes in consumer preferences for food and food ingredients were putting significant downward pressure on demand for the industry’s traditional products and creating incentives for new product development. The tart cherry industry had already proven willing to undertake major changes (e.g., transition to mechanical harvest in the 1970s, along with adjustments in orchard design and processing capacity, processing advances in the 1990s that significantly decreased the risk of cherry pits in the finished product). Would the existing policy and marketing support activities provided by CMI, although successful in the past, be able to move the industry forward? Was it time for another major change in this industry? Or were there marginal adjustments that could be made for survival?

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