Wendy Brannen, who has served as executive director of the Vidalia Onion Committee since July 2005, has resigned to take a position with U.S. Apple Association in Washington, DC.
"This has not been a job, this has been a joy," Ms. Brannen said in a March 8 press release. "These growers and packers, the industry, and the Vidalia community have been beyond good to me. While I look forward to working in a new industry in a newplace, I will always be thankful for this tremendous adventure and without a doubt will continue to be a Vidalia onion ambassador."
Jason Herndon of Herndon Farms in Lyons, GA, who is vice chairperson of the VOC, added in the press release, "It has been a pleasure for us in the Vidalia industry to have Wendy on board with us for the last eight years. We hate to see her move on, but we all understand the name of the game. She has really helped us to become a major marketed commodity and shown great leadership and focus in helping to ensure our marketing strategies were successful. We will sincerely miss her but wish her the best in her new position with U.S. Apple."
During her tenure with Vidalia onions, Ms. Brannen redeveloped the industry's website, introduced the group to social media strategy, and expanded retail outreach through broad-based consumer programs including online contests and giveaways, downloadable coupons, and paid advertising. Her signature strategy, however, has been developing major promotional partnerships.
In 2012, Ms. Brannen directed the Sweet Vidalias & Country Music promotion with Universal Music Group in Nashville, TN. During that program, the VOC launched a new Vidalia Facebook page that garnered almost 36,000 fans in the four-month promotional window. Fifty thousand Vidalia coupons were downloaded with a whopping 26 percent redemption.
During year one of that promotion in 2011, Ms. Brannen suggested a national Vidalia Onion Jingle Contest, which resulted in more than 136,000 visitors to the Vidalia onion website. The winning jingle is now used in radio ads.
However, Ms. Brannen is most widely recognized as spearheading the wildly popular Shrek "Ogres & Onions" partnership with DreamWorks Animation. That promotion landed the VOC on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, on ABC World News with Dianne Sawyer, Fox Business, the New York Post and a bevy of other A-list media.
Reports that parents were getting kids to eat Vidalia onions because of colorful Shrek packaging struck curiosity and drove sales of consumer packs up almost 30 percent.
Another bright but unusual note in the list of Ms. Brannen's accomplishments is the Vidalia Onion Museum, which she spearheaded for five years from conceptualization through implementation to public relations outreach. That museum opened in Vidalia during April 2011 and has had visitors from more than 45 states and 12 foreign countries to date.