Apricot season is under way for Stemilt Growers, one of Washington’s leading apricot grower-shippers. The company started harvesting and packing apricots in central Washington earlier this week, which is a week ahead of last year’s timing. Not only is Stemilt a state leader in apricot volume, but it also has a strong organic presence centered on growing fruit for flavor.
Stemilt expects to harvest nearly 300,000 cartons of apricots this year, which is a 35 percent increase from 2013. Ideal weather conditions throughout bloom and the growing season made for a nice crop set and led to increased volumes, said Roger Pepperl, Stemilt marketing director.
“Weather has definitely been on our side this season, which is resulting in large-sized, clean and very high-quality apricots," he said in a press release. "We’re harvesting Robada apricots now and will quickly move into our leading two varieties, Rival and Perfection. Stemilt will have promotable volumes to ship by the middle of next week, and encourages strong apricot promotions at retail from June 30 through July 14.”
Approximately 60 percent of Stemilt’s apricots are grown and certified organic. The company’s commitment to organics differentiates its apricots in the marketplace and aids in producing fruit with complex flavors. Stemilt markets organic apricots under its "Artisan Organics" label.
“The natural farming techniques used in organic production brings orchards into balance from a horticultural standpoint. This combines with the ideal climate in central Washington to produce larger apricots with great color and a true dessert eating experience,” Pepperl said in the release.
Washington apricots are a natural transition from California, and recent category reports have shown apricots to be performing very well at retail, Pepperl added.
“Apricots are a great item to load with Stemilt cherries now through July, and our strong position on organic apricots is perfect for differentiating the dessert qualities of our fruit to shoppers,” he said.
Stemilt’s random-weight pouch bag will be used again this season to pack any size apricot, and is especially beneficial for promoting organic apricots at retail. “The pouch bag is a great way to increase purchase size and build incremental sales. It’s also a way for us to easily message the fact that the apricots inside are organic,” said Pepperl.
With lots of jumbo-sized fruit this year, Stemilt will also pack large apricots in panta packs and tray packs. Volume fill boxes will be used for smaller sizes.
Stemilt apricots are grown primarily by the Douglas family, who has farmed fruit in central Washington for four generations. Orchards are located in the Tri Cities, Columbia Basin and the Wenatchee Valley, where long, warm days and cooler nights precede harvest.
“We’re fortunate to grow apricots in the best locales, and are very pleased by the quality of fruit we’re seeing come off the tree right now. Artisan Organics apricots are the perfect item to build stone fruit category sales during the upcoming key summer months,” said Pepperl.