Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Domex Superfresh Growers in Yakima, WA, chose his words carefully when describing growing conditions for the 2011 cherry crop. “Cold. Windy. And late,” he told The Produce News May 12. “But today is a gorgeous day.” He quickly followed up the description by adding that the bees have done their job. “There are piles of blooms out there [in the cherry orchards],” he observed.
Weather conditions are expected to delay the initial harvest for the company by 10 to 15 days depending upon the cherry variety. “Our first pick will be around June 15,” Mr. Queen said. “That will time well with California’s end.” The first cherries to come into production will be Chelans followed by Bings two weeks later.
Domex Superfresh Growers markets both conventional and organic product, sourcing cherries throughout the Northwest growing region. Organic represents a small portion of the company’s overall cherry deal because of pest issues. “It’s heavy-duty work not only at the orchard but at the packingline as well,” he said.
“Production will be light through June 21,” Mr. Queen added, saying he expects 25 percent of the company’s volume will be available in August. “This is an unusual situation,” he said. Despite the untypical production time-
table, Mr. Queen anticipatd that retailers who plan their ads programs carefully will be able to capitalize on cherry sales through the end of the summer.
Cherries are marketed under the “Domes Superfresh” label. A variety of packaging options are available to the company’s retail partners. This season, the company will introduce a new clamshell label which incorporates a quick response code. By capturing the image of the code on their smartphones, consumers cant then learn more about products without leaving the produce department. A new video that can play on smartphones will also be introduced this year.
“The connection of our growers to our consumers is critical,” Mr. Queen commented. “Consumers have a desire to feel closer to their food.”