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Reduced crop size will bump up cherry sizing for Domex

Even as it deals with the effects of a recent cold snap in the Pacific Northwest, Domex Superfresh Growers anticipates it will market larger-sized cherries this season.

“The weather has impacted our volume of cherries for the 2013 season,” Vice President of Marketing Howard Nager, told The Produce News. “Cool, windy weather during pollination as well as some frost damage has reduced the size of this year’s crop by about 22 percent. This smaller crop, however, will lend itself to larger fruit size, with almost 88 percent of the crop being 11 row and larger.”

The tree fruit grower-packer-shipper is headquartered in Yakima, WA. Domex continues to increase both the size of its grower network and production acreage. “We are seeing higher yielding, with high density plantings contributing to larger crop production,” he stated.

DomexDomex Superfresh Growers recently installed a new packingline at its facility in Selah, WA, which also houses a state-of-the-industry Rainier packingline. (Photo courtesy of Domex Superfresh Growers)“From a consumers standpoint, they truly only see dark sweet cherries or the Rainier variety,” he went on to say. “They associate, in many cases, all dark sweet cherries as Bings. However, there are a number of different varieties that we grow such as Sweethearts, Lapins, Skeenas, Chelans and Lamberts. Bings are the largest percentage followed by Sweethearts. The two combine for almost 70 percent of the dark sweet volume. We also will continue to market organic cherries for both dark sweet and Rainiers.”

Organics, he added, account for approximately 10 percent of Domex’s volume.

Nager expects cherry volume in 2013 will be down when compared to the 2012 crop year. “However, we will still maintain about a 10-percent market share of the Northwest cherries shipped this year,” he stated.

The harvest was expected to ramp up around June 3 and continue into the second week of August. “There should be good volumes for Fourth of July promotions as well as volumes for July and August promotions,” he said. “We also have a late cherry deal with product grown in Flathead Lake, MT. Not only is this a very scenic locale and the gateway to Glacier National Park, they produce some terrific late-season cherries. The two-week limited supply should be available the end of July into early August.”

Approximately 30 percent of the company’s volume is exported. “Most of this product is air-shipped with some fruit in past years being shipped by ocean,” Nager said.

A new packingline line has been installed at the company’s facility in Selah, WA, and Nager said Domex continues to refine its state-of-the-industry Rainier packingline in the same location. “Loading docks at our Wenatchee and Selah facilities have also been upgraded to get trucks in and out much more quickly and efficiently,” he added.

According to Nager, innovation is driving new approaches to product packaging and marketing. “Domex will continue to use QR codes on packaging to direct consumers to YouTube videos of product being grown, harvested and packed,” he said. “We will also share with them stories of our growers and their dedication to providing the highest quality, safest fruit possible.”

Domex will introduce a new high-graphic, stand-up pouch bag with a handle and slide lock this season. “This bag will be offered in limited quantities as we try and ramp up production to meet this new demand,” Nager noted.

Use of social media continues to grow and provide Domex with direct connections to consumers. Domex planned to launch its redesigned website, which incorporates many new enhancements, on June 1.

“One of the enhancements will be an Instagram promotion called ‘Picture a Healthier You and Win,’” Nager said. “The promotion will be introduced on our homepage.” In order to enter the contest, consumers must upload an original message to Instagram and caption the image with one of the qualifying hashtag/username combinations such as #eatcherries@superfreshgrowers or #eatapples@superfreshgrowers.

“Each entry needs to receive five or more Likes, and that will qualify the consumer for a $100 gift card to be drawn once per month through the balance of 2013,” Nager said. “In addition, we also continue to provide display bins to drive incremental sales and displays around the produce department and store.”