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RipeRite program accelerates pear sales for Stemilt Growers Inc.

Stemilt Growers Inc. is expanding its RipeRite pear ripening program this season. Director of Marketing Roger Pepperl said two new Thermal Tech ripening rooms have been added this season to condition pears. “The pressurized, high-tech rooms get retailers into the ripened program,” he told The Produce News July 25.

Stemilt is located in Wenatchee, WA. Distribution of production acreage in the Wenatchee Valley allows the company to grow a full pear manifest and harvest later into the production season. Conventional pear volume is expected to be up 15 percent this season.

“We’re one of the largest organic pear growers,” Mr. Pepperl added, saying organics account for 20 percent of the company’s overall pear volume.

Even with the ups and downs of cold, wet weather during the current production season, Mr. Pepperl said,

” We’re still looking at a really nice pear crop. Overall, weather has been good. Size may be off one size. But nothing hypercritical.”

He said that he is expecting a nice, clean crop with a good flavor profile.

The harvest will commence toward the end of August or beginning of September. Owing to a late start, Mr. Pepperl said that activity will continue through September.

Approximately 20 percent of the company’s overall volume is moved offshore. Mexico and the Middle East represent the company’s two largest export markets.

Mr. Pepperl noted that he was pleased to see the trucking dispute between the United States and Mexico resolved. The Mexican 20 percent tariff has already been reduced to 10 percent and is slated for eventual elimination.

“That tariff coming off will be a big deal for us,” Mr. Pepprl stated.

On the marketing front, Mr. Pepperl said, “We’re really pushing some value bags.” Three-pound bags will feature Red Anjou and Bosc varieties, and a four-pound value bag will also be offered. “We need to find ways to send more pears home,” Mr. Pepperl said of the program.

A new pear bin will be introduced this season, designed to move ready-to-eat pears into consumers’ hands. “These pear bins will push multiple varieties on ads,” Mr. Pepper commented. “Bartletts and Anjous are the meat of the ads. But the bins will help sell other varieties.”

Social networking has proved to be an invaluable asset to the company. A new Pearology program will be launched on the company’s Facebook site. As an interactive application, Pearology gives consumers an opportunity to learn more about the wines and cheeses which complement specific pear varieties.

With an uptick in the capability of smartphones, Stemilt has also been able to take advantage of cutting-edge technology.

“We have also added [quick-response] codes to give consumers tools,” Mr. Pepperl stated.