The slow start for Northwest cherries has Rainier Fruit Co. in Selah, WA, expecting light volume for its initial harvest, but Marketing Director Suzanne Wolter said in mid-May that the company “will have good volume before July 4.”
Ms. Wolter said first loads will likely go out around June 13.
“We’re looking at this as 12 days later than normal, whatever ‘normal’ is,” she said.
Noting that California has also come into its cherry season later than it generally does, Ms. Wolter said the overlap should not be a problem.
“We will have ad volume and promotions west of the Mississippi,” she said, adding, “It should be fine where we overlap [with California], and we will start shipping as soon as we can. We’ll definitely have heavy volume in July.”
Producing later varieties has extended Rainier’s season incrementally for the past decade, Ms. Wolter said.
“The season has become longer, and more consumers are purchasing cherries later. Also, our distribution has expanded throughout the country,” she said. “In fact, most of our cherry growth is in the later varieties such as the Skeena and Sweetheart, which are harvested in late July and early August. We are also producing cherries in the higher elevations, which come off later as well.”
Another variety, the fragile Rainier, accounts for approximately 13 percent of Rainier Fruit Co.’s total cherry volume and has increased more than 200 percent in the past six years.
“We put a lot of effort into the horticultural practices that produce a beautiful Rainier with more blush than is typical,” Ms. Wolter said.
“The Rainiers will start around June 20and will finish the third week of July,” she added.
Ms. Wolter said the grower-shipper’s cherry promotional program involves “a lot of retailers who are interested in capturing the interest of consumers” with high-visibility display material.
“We have a special poster promotion,” Ms. Wolter said, citing studies that show secondary displays such as posters are effective in double-digit increases for the cherry category overall. Rainier variety sales have increased upwards of 14 percent, and the entire cherry category has seen sales increases of 23 percent, she said.
Rainier Fruit Co. offers cherries in catch-weight bags and clamshells.