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Retailers embracing ripe programs for pears

by Lora Abcarian | August 30, 2010
Dennis James, director of marketing for the Pear Bureau Northwest in Milwaukie, OR, said that retailers who have implemented ripe programs for pears have seen sales volume increase by as much as 25 percent.

"Ripe programs are a logical way to give your customers the fruit they want to eat," he told The Produce News Aug. 18. “In the last year, retailers and shippers are more fully embracing the ripe program.”

A study was conducted in March to assess how successfully consumers were able to determine if fresh pears are ripe. According to Mr. James, only 15 percent of respondents knew how to perform the “check the neck” test. Ripe pears will give at the neck slightly when pushed at the stem.

“Retailers must consistently provide a ripe product the consumer can count on,” said Mr. James. “When consumers rely on the ripe program, they will buy more abundantly.”

By employing visual techniques such as in-store demonstrations, Mr. James said ripe programs will draw consumers back to the produce department for additional pear purchases. “I think the ripe program really has legs,” he said.

When the economy began to sour in 2008 and 2009, Mr. James said retailers narrowed their perspective on techniques to preserve sales. “Last year, retailers identified that they had missed profit opportunities [during those years],” he said.

Ripe programs are common-place for bananas. But Mr. James said they are in their infancy when it comes to pears. “It is still at a stage where it is practiced on a limited basis,” he said. “But it is catching on. Retailers must keep their attention on the total system to keep things going.”

(For more on Northwest pears, see the Aug. 30, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)