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Stemilt's apricot program centered on organics, flavor

Stemilt Growers, one of Washington state's larger apricot grower-shippers, is set to begin harvest of its 2013 crop June 24.

The company has a strong organic presence centered on growing fruit for flavor. According to Stemilt marketing director Roger Pepperl, approximately 65 percent of Stemilt's apricots are grown and certified organic. Apricot-MockupThe company's commitment to organics differentiates its apricots in the marketplace and aids in producing fruit with complex flavors. Stemilt markets organic apricots under its "Artisan Organics" label.

"The natural farming techniques used in organic production brings orchards into balance from a horticultural standpoint," Pepperl said. "This combines with the ideal climate in central Washington to produce apricots with vibrant hues and dessert flavors that have the right sugar-to-acid ratio."

Stemilt expects to harvest nearly 200,000 cartons of apricots this year. As an industry, the Washington state apricot crop is down slightly from last year but normal in timing with great promotion opportunities available in July.

"We'll start harvest around June 24 and move into promotable volumes of our two best varieties - Rival and Perfection - quickly," said Pepperl. "The peak of the season occurs July 10-12, making post July 4th the ideal time to advertise and highlight apricots in the produce department."

Washington apricots are a natural transition from California and have become increasingly popular over the past several years, Pepperl added.

In addition to promoting apricots heavily in July, Pepperl encourages retailers to carry organic apricots instead of conventional to capture shoppers from both sides of the aisle. To help with that, Stemilt added a new, resealable, random-weight pouch bag to its organic apricot packaging line-up this year.

"The new pouch bag offers consumers a high-value item in a convenient package. Designed to stand up on display and in the refrigerator, it's the perfect item to call attention to the high-flavored organic fruit in the bag," said Pepperl.

A QR code on the pouch bag provides consumers with additional information about Stemilt apricots, including nutrition information and who grew them.

"People want to know where their food is coming from. QR codes on packaging allow us to share the unique story of our growers. For apricots, that means consumers are learning about the Douglas family and how they work to elevate the flavor and quality of apricots through organic farming," said Pepperl.

Stemilt apricots are grown primarily by the Douglas family in central Washington's arid climate, which is known for having long, warm days followed by cool nights. This combination provides an ideal environment for building sugars and color in the fruit.

"Our apricots come from the best locales. Areas like the Tri Cities, Columbia Basin, and the Wenatchee Valley consistently produce clean, premium-quality apricots. The diversity of our orchards allows us to deliver a continuous supply of Artisan Organics apricots through the summer months," said Pepperl.