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Cherry deal showing growth for L&M Cos.

L&M Cos., located in Union Gap, WA, anticipates quadrupling its cherry volume in the coming years following the execution of a business agreement with Conrad & Adams Fruit in Grandview, WA. “Conrad & Adams puts out one of the most outstanding packs in the state,” said Keith Horder, director of business development for L&M. “Conrad & Adams has tremendous capacity.”

Despite the fact that weather in the growing region has been unseasonably cool, Mr. Horder said the “Sunnyside Southeast” growing location has been a plus. “I think we’re going to have a good crop out there. We’ll be one of the few companies having volume for July 4,” he told The Produce News May 12. The harvest will begin with Chelans and Tietans around June 16. “By June 20, we’ll be completely Bings,” he stated. Rainier production will also ramp up around June 20. Most of the cherries marketed by L&M are conventional at this time.

“We’ll have some nice big cherries. We will peak at 10- and 101/2-row cherries,” Mr. Horder stated. “We’re also expecting we’re going to have some nine-row cherries available going into oone-pound clamshells.”

L&M sells cherries under the “Nature’s Delight” label to markets in North America. Offshore exports, particularly to the Pacific Rim, represent 10 percent to 15 percent of L&M’s total cherry business. “That is all very dependent on the weather,” he said of exports.

A variety of packaging options are available to the company’s retail partners.

Although the July 4 holiday has been an important time for product movement, Mr. Horder said retailers should not lose sight when it comes to promotions throughout the season. “It’s not the magic of the holiday,” he said. “It’s the magic of the fruit.”

Because cherries are seasonal items at retail, Mr. Horder was quick to point out that cherry sales do not cannibalize sales of other fruit items in the produce department. “Cherries are one of the things that are a special item for consumers,” he went on to say. “Consumers will continue to purchase them even late in the season.”

He said retailers can gain incremental sales in their stores when good cherries are sold. “That’s the key,” he noted.