WENATCHEE, Wash. – Every week that cherries are available during the summer months is a week that Stemilt Growers is freshly picking, packing and shipping the sought-after fruit. Every cherry week is also an opportunity for retailers to make big dollars to contribute to a profitable summer season in produce. Planning for a long season of cherry sales is the message Stemilt conveys in their just-released Fruit Tracker Fast Facts video analysis of Nielsen retail scan data from the past two cherry seasons.
Cherries made up 4.7 percent of fresh produce sales on average during their 20-week summer season in 2018. The average store sold 488 pounds per week for $1,542 dollars, both of which were down double-digits from the 2017 cherry season.
“Last year’s crop shortage on early season cherries when compared to 2017 was the likely cause for the dip,” said Brianna Shales, Stemilt communications manager. “Our Fast Facts video reinforces the fact that no two cherry seasons are ever alike, and each season, including 2019, has to be approached differently.”
The 2019 cherry crop in California will start later than it did in 2018 but with high potential to break volume records. The late start means retailers must plan for California cherry promotions in late May and throughout June.
“The California crop is very promising. Retailers will have to wait longer than they are used to for the first promotion, but once that volume comes, they will be able to keep shelves full of great quality fruit until it’s time to transition to Washington,” said Shales.
In 2018, dark-sweet cherries sold for $3.08 per pound on average in the U.S. This was up 12.7 percent from the 2017 crop. Golden Rainier cherries made up 5.2 percent of the cherry category volume in 2018 but 7.8 percent of category dollars with an average retail price of a whopping $4.71 per pound.
“Dark-sweet cherries are the workhorse of the category and planning for big promotions when the crop allows it is vital,” said Shales. “Rainiers have a shorter season but are equally worthy of promotions. Even when on ad, they are a high-ring item.”
Organic cherries are a much smaller part of the cherry category at just 1.1 percent of the volume but sell for high retail prices. In 2018, organic cherries commanded a 41 percent average retail price per pound premium over conventionally grown cherries.
A big June for Stemilt’s California cherries will be followed by an even bigger July for its crop in Washington. The Washington crop also has later timing than 2018, but with some overlap between the California crop. Stemilt will round out its long cherry season with continued promotion opportunities in August.
“There is lots of optimism in the air around cherries, and we are ready to get our long season started,” said Shales. “From early cherries in California to late, high-altitude cherries in Washington, Stemilt has the brands, programs and intelligence to help retailers navigate the season and make it a huge success.”
Stemilt Growers is a leading tree fruit growing, packing and shipping company based in Wenatchee, Washington. Owned and operated by the Mathison family, Stemilt is the leading shipper of sweet cherries and one of the nation’s largest suppliers of organic tree fruits. Stemilt has also demonstrated a commitment to sustainable agriculture and social responsibility since 1989, when founder Tom Mathison launched the company’s Responsible Choice program. For more information about Stemilt, visit www.stemilt.com and follow Stemilt on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and You Tube.