Harry & David is banking on the ever-growing popularity of Moose Munch to attract its customers of tomorrow. And to do that, it will send Moose Munch out on its own into stores across the country.

Comice pears, branded Royal Riviera by Harry & David, have been the heart and promotional soul of the company for 83 years. But there are new generations to be won over.

Moose Munch confection made its debut in 1995 and bars followed in 1997. Since then, the offerings have expanded to bite-sized bars, barks, cheesecakes and cookies.

Now in the quest to secure future generations, Moose Munch will move beyond the protective Harry & David gift baskets, stores and catalogues.

"We've actually broken it out as its own division," Harry & David President Steve Lightman said. "We clearly have a customer demographic that's 55 and older. We're looking to stay in that marketplace and take of those customers. But we're looking to expand and we see Moose Munch as a product that could could be a snack food and a trail mix and single-serve.

"We want to have it in all the convenience stores across the country. We want to have it in all the grocery stores and drug stores. We want it to be where the customer wants it, when they want it and how they want it."

That means platoons of marketing and merchandising people tasked to put Moose Munch front and center for "millennials, Gen Xers, and the younger generations," Lightman said.

It's part of a broader leap forward to penetrate new markets and develop new digital tools as Harry & David, which became part of 1-800-Flowers in 2014, seeks to be less holiday-centric. That requires investment in people, technology and systems.

"In years past, in the private equity world, prior to 1-800 Flowers owning Harry & David, there was always a short-term view of the world," Lightman said. "We're now part of strategic company, and we have a growth plan to significantly grow the business over the next five years."

As Harry & David gears up for harvest, Lightman said, it will be aided this year by automatic trays that will move through the orchards to streamline picking. The firm has new label machines, revamped gift assembly lines and added new call center telephones with voice-recognition capabilities.

"We're always looking for ways to bring automation to the process to make it easier, more efficient and be able to handle great volumes of packages going out the doors," he said.

Harry & David typically hires between 4,000 and 6,000 seasonal workers, and Lightman anticipates 5,000 will sign on this fall.

Call center positions are normally the hardest to fill because of the limited six-week tenure. But this year, the company is taking a new approach.

"We're offering them a phased holiday season," he said. "They might start them in manufacturing by putting gifts together. Then they might go into packaging and then move into the call center. That would give them three or four months of work, instead of six weeks."

The gift industry, including Harry & David, took a beating in business-to-business sales during the recession. It took a while to recover.

"What we're finding is that companies are re-engaging in that process," Lightman said. "As the market grows, our share of that market grows as well. We have great expectations as we see companies really reinvesting in their own customers and clients."

He said the stability of being under 1-800-Flowers' corporate wing has made it easier to fill executive and management roles.

"Historically, it's been difficult to get senior executives and middle management to come into Harry & David because the company was always for sale. You never knew if you would have a career. Today, when we interview people, we talk about three years out, five years out, 10 years out, what the company will look like."

 — Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.