The industry saw growth in the pear category, according to Stemilt’s recent analysis of retail scan data from Nielsen Perishables Group. Stemilt’s premium river valley pear program contribute to the increases through the first four months of the season, say company officials.
The company’s analysis showed D’Anjou pears were up 24% in volume and nearly 26% in dollar sales year over year according to national composite data from September through December 2013; while other key pear varieties including Red d’Anjou, Bartlett and Bosc also realized increases in both categories.
“Though no two crop years are ever the same – and the 2013-14 crop is up in volume and fruit size is larger than the prior crop – the fact that dollar sales have increased for d’Anjou and other key varieties along with volume increases shows that consumer demand for pears is very strong,” says Roger Pepperl, Stemilt marketing director.
There are a number of factors that led to the pear category increases, Pepperl says, including a slightly earlier than normal harvest in the Northwest which allowed retailers to get a jump on the pear season. The total pear crop is up over last year due to this being an “on” year for pears, and fruit size is running a size larger this year, he adds.
Aside from crop realities, Pepperl believes that increased attention on ripening programs for d’Anjou, value bag offerings, and putting multiple varieties on ad each month is elevating the pear category.
“Here at Stemilt, our pear program has really benefitted over the past several years from capital investments, new products, and a focus on getting multiple pears on ad every month during the fall and winter season. The increased shelf space for pears during a multi-pear ad often results in 15-20% increases in volume when compared to one item pear ads,” says Pepperl.
Stemilt pears come primarily from two locales – the Wenatchee River Valley and the Entiat River Valley. Surrounded by alpine mountains, these two regions benefit from cooler temperatures during the growing season and high-quality air drainage which consistently produces premium quality pears. The two locales are both located in close proximity to four modern packing lines operated by Stemilt or its pear partner, Peshastin Hi-Up. Additionally, Stemilt’s Miller Street facility in Wenatchee features two, Thermal Tech ripening rooms to round out the company’s recognizable RipeRite pear ripening program.
“Our increased investment in packing lines and pear ripening has resulted in a better consumer eating experience. We already benefit from tremendous pear quality thanks to the location of our pear orchards, and so we focus on tight inventory turns and delivering ready-to-eat pear pressures to retail on normally hard-to-ripen varieties like d’Anjou and Red d’Anjou,” says Pepperl.
Stemilt has also increased the volume of bag offerings to provide added value to the pear category. The company includes four varieties of pears in its trademarked Lil Snappers line of kid-sized fruits, and also provides retailers with high-graphic half tri-wall bins which are perfect for promoting family-sized bags of pears.
“It’s always our goal at Stemilt to continuously improve pear quality in order to provide consumers with an unforgettable eating experience. It’s great to see our efforts pay off in the form of strong category growth nationally,” says Pepperl.