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White peaches,nectarines are a major focus for Family Tree Farms

REEDLEY, CA — Family Tree Farms Marketing LLC, here is one of just “two or three” California stone fruit shippers with “a full white-flesh program,” Dovey Plain, marketing administrator, said May 6.

“A lot of people are aware that we have been branching out into some yellow [peach and nectarine] varieties and increasing that every year,” she said. “But it is not in any way decreasing our commitment to white flesh” which “still remains … our number one focus.”

As always, Family Tree Farms is continually searching for better varieties, and every year the company pulls out anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of its acreage, planted to older varieties that are “less than wonderful,” and replaces them, Ms. Plain said.

That is true not only with the white-flesh varieties but with the yellow varieties, plumcots — another company specialty — and other fruit.

But even with all of the replanting, Ms. Plain said, looking at the projections for the 2011 crop by variety, “there are really not a lot of breakout varieties” showing a significant increase in production this year — varieties that may, for example, have had a significant acreage in third leaf last year that will see “a huge jump” in volume going into fourth leaf.

One of the few varieties that will show a sizeable jump in volume is the Polar Ice white nectarine, she said. “It starts in mid-May. That is really our only variety right now that I do see a big increase on,” probably doubling its production over 2010.

The company is also increasing its production of Galaxy flat peaches. “We are continuing to focus on the Galaxies in the Saturn world,” Ms. Plain said. “A couple of years ago, we took out all of the traditional Saturn. It never colored well. It was really hard to get the green out of it. And the flavor just wasn’t that hot.” Meanwhile, Galaxy was “just getting better reviews every year” from customers. It also gets good size, so “that volume is continuing to expand.”

With the Galaxy, “we have had a lot of success in a seven-count clamshell,” she said. “It started out as a club store pack, and as we showed it to more and more regular retail customers,” many of them wanted to give it a try. Some felt it might be too big a package for most consumers, however, “so this year we are trying out a four-count pack” that actually holds “just a little bit smaller piece of fruit.”

The four-count clamshell, which some people refer to as a purse pack because of its convenient handle, nests 14 per Euro tray, allowing more weight in the pack and more product on the truck. That has been “a big hit” with customers, rather than “shipping truckloads of air,” she said.

When The Produce News talked to Ms. Plain in early May, Family Tree had just started shipping Snow Angel, the first white peaches of the season. “That will probably go on for another week or so,” she said, noting that all of the white-flesh fruit was running a little later than last year. Sugars and color are good, she added.

Family Tree Farms has been running event-oriented marketing programs with its apricots this year and is looking to do something similar with white-flesh peaches and nectarines, although the details were not yet ironed out, Ms. Plain said. “We are going to try to do some type of event for a July-August timeframe” such as, possibly, “white-hot summer sensations,” featuring a recipe for a white nectarine salsa called “White Hot Salsa.”

If retailers are provided with a package that includes a consumer pack (for apricots it is a tote basket), a poster and recipes, it gives them options to do “whatever suits them best,” she said.