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Superfresh Growers optimistic about cherry season

Superfresh Growers, based in Yakima, WA, is one of the largest tree fruit growers in the Northwest, farming thousands of acres of cherries throughout the region, which allows it to partner on season-long programs with retailers.

“All of our fruit is sorted and packed using the latest technologies,” said Catherine Gipe-Stewart, communications manager of Domex Superfresh Growers. “It’s important to be in tune with the latest technology and growing practices. We continue to design and locate our orchards for efficiency, safety and optimal cherry quality. This means planting the right varieties in the right locations, which leads to an uninterrupted harvest, efficient labor flow, and happy and safe employees.”

Cherry-Harvest-Dark-Sweet-3Dark sweet cherries (left) and Rainier cherries are both offered by Domex Superfresh Growers.All of this helps Superfresh Growers to cost efficiencies, and more importantly, the freshest possible fruit for consumers.

With the cherry season about a month away, Gipe-Stewart noted that the company is very optimistic about the 2018 cherry crop.

“We have had a smooth and gradual transition to spring, which means bloom, and therefore the crop should be temporally spaced across our growing regions,” Gipe-Stewart said. “This means we could have a nice, long cherry season, allowing retailers to promote and book sales for the entire summer.”

As of mid-May, the harvest was projected to run from early June to the end of August, with estimates of somewhere between 20 million and 26 million boxes, which offers good promotional opportunities all summer.

“In terms of fruit sizing, we pruned thoroughly in the off season,” Gipe-Stewart said. “We also continue to invest in varieties that deliver larger fruit, higher volume, better flavor and more volume at the shoulders of the season.”

Examples include Coral Champagne, Sweetheart, Santina and Lapin.

“So, we anticipate a smaller crop than the 2017 record crop, but even larger fruit,” Gipe-Stewart said. “This is all true of our Rainier cherries and organic dark sweet and organic Rainier cherries.”

She added that 2018 should also be a great year for its exclusive, branded Two Bite Cherries program.

“Through variety selection and good farming practices, we continue to grow larger fruit every season, and our Two Bite packaging and promotional support provides a great way for retailers to signal to consumers that large, great-tasting Northwest cherries from Superfresh Growers are available,” Gipe-Stewart said. “The program has grown in popularity every year, and Two Bite Cherries are returning this year with the addition of our organic options.”

The company has a number of social media and marketing initiatives planned for cherry season as it looks to focus more on influencer engagement in key high-cherry consuming regions and look forward to engaging with them on increasing cherry consumption.

To increase sales on a retail level, Gipe-Stewart said that creating kitchen inspiration through recipes and beautiful meal preparation keeps cherries at the front of mind as shoppers head to the produce section.

“Flavor and appearance continue to be the top factors in choosing produce, with health benefits just behind,” she said. “Reminding consumers of seasonal dishes that embrace summer and the ‘fun’ of cherry season evokes the emotions of joy, comfort, friends and family, and that many shoppers connect with cherry and summer season.”

The healthful properties of cherries are also great reminders to consumers about what sets cherries apart, she said, citing that cherries are known for being rich in antioxidants, but they also help fight inflammation, help fight cancer, lower blood sugar levels, and boost one’s fiber quota.

Another promotional opportunity, Gipe-Stewart shared, is to cross merchandise in an ad, especially with organic cherries.

“Place cherries next to yogurt and suggest it as an antioxidant and protein-rich breakfast. Or place cherries next to protein powder and suggest adding fresh fruit to smoothies,” she said. “The combinations are endless and add recipe inspiration to digital and print ads. Studies show that 44 percent of organic shoppers report that they use print and digital ad circulars to plan their shopping.”

Gipe-Stewart believes the company’s display-ready pouch bags and clamshells call attention to themselves, but signage near displays helps.

“The basics of merchandising work well for cherries,” she said. “Retailers should carve out as much primary and secondary space as possible and use refrigerated displays where feasible. Bring cherries to the front of the department and promote at least every other week for the entire summer.”

Outside of cherries, Superfresh Growers continues to prep for the 2020 consumer introduction of the Cosmic Crisp apple, and this year is an important planting year for the new product, and so it’s investing heavily in new acreage, with the newest forms of horticultural practices and technology.