WENATCHEE, Wash. – Cherry trees are in bloom across Washington State and California cherry harvest is set to kick off soon. Ahead of starting its industry-leading cherry season, Stemilt is releasing a Fast Facts: The Cast episode that shares Nielsen scan data insights on cherries. Stemilt marketing director Roger Pepperl and senior marketing manager Brianna Shales highlight category numbers from the 2019 season, and offer retailers advice for navigating cherry season as the country faces unprecedented changes to grocery shopping habits due to COVID 19. The Fast Facts: The Cast episode on cherries can be viewed here.
“Cherries are a key part of the produce department every summer, accounting for 3.1 percent of fresh produce department sales weekly on average in the U.S. during the May to September 7 timeframe,” said Shales. “In peak weeks, that grows to 5 percent and above, with the Northeast and Midwest regions skewing above average. It’s important to build a retail strategy that helps shoppers locate and purchase cherries no matter how or when they purchase groceries.”
Stemilt begins the episode by giving a preview of the upcoming California cherry season. The company expects the crop to be larger than last year’s low volume year, but not a record because of lighter crop loads on trees throughout the state. The season will run for about four weeks, with volumes available from May 8 to June 8.
“We’re anticipating our California cherries to come off the tree in a larger size profile with dessert eating qualities,” said Shales. “There will be opportunities to promote California cherries as the crop picks up in volume around May 8.”
Cherries are an item that most consumers purchase on impulse, Shales noted. COVID-19 has transformed the grocery shopping experience with store trip frequency down, social distancing measures causing people to shorten the time they spend in stores, and online grocery sales booming.
“Cherries are one of the few seasonal items that remain in produce,” said Shales. “Shoppers need to be reminded that they are back in season and available to purchase. This is especially important online with new shoppers gravitating towards curbside pickup or delivery methods to get their groceries.”
Packaging may be another change for cherries that comes with a COVID-19 world. Random-weight bags are the top package type for cherries, but Stemilt expects to see an uptick in clamshells and top seal this season. These consumer packs feature UPCs for scanability, are easy to display at retail, and make it easy for online shoppers to understand the pack size they are buying.
“We’ve seen consumers shift to bags over bulk in apples over the past month and are prepared if that trend continues with cherries. Stemilt has great capacity to pack these consumer pack types in both California and Washington.”
The largest volume weeks for cherries in 2019 came in July. Stemilt’s Washington cherry crop is in bloom now and it’s too early to predict exact timing and crop size, however July brings all five of the company’s cherry offerings to retailers. Dark-sweets, Rainier, Skylar Rae®, and Artisan Organics™ dark-sweet and Rainier cherries are all available in July to help retailers expand displays and make a big impact to their bottom line.
“We’re looking forward to a great – and long – cherry season at Stemilt,” said Shales. “Our program is built around differentiation. We help differentiate through variety, package types, quality, and brands. We are ready to work with retailers to drive cherry purchases in-store and online and have resources available to do just that.”
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.