CMI Orchards features specialty cherries this season
The 2021 cherry crop is shaping up nicely so far, according to Rochelle Bohm, brand manager for CMI Orchards in Wenatchee, WA. “Timing looks to be a little later than last year by about six days, which could make early June supply a challenge,” said Bohm, adding that it was a healthy crop in general with a good spread so far between all the growing districts. “This keeps us confident that we will be able to manage the harvest well, along with keeping good consistent quality flowing through the supply pipeline.” CMI is one of many Northwest cherry shippers excited for a strong crop that is spaced out, inspiring confidence that they will be able to provide consistent, high-quality fruit to all cherry consumers.
“We’re expecting a slight harvest delay due to mild temperatures,” she said, projecting harvest to be six days later than last year, based on first round of projections. “This would put our first peak around the later part of June with a gradual increase in tonnage leading to another later and larger peak in the front part of July.” She added that there is still considerable time between now and then that could affect the timing — “you never know with Mother Nature.”
It is inevitable that the industry will continue to see new and emerging cherry varieties in the market. Much like other commodities, product differentiation both through packaging that stands out and also flavor and appearance differences give retailers something to upsell, and customers something new and exciting to try.
CMI is part of the exclusive Skylar Rae partnership, and the company also markets Strawberry Cherries. “These two varieties are very special, delicious and fan-favorites with shoppers,” said Bohm. In 2021, CMI is launching a new jumbo cherry program for the domestic market; XXL cherries. “They’re big, bold, and bursting with flavor,” she said.
Bohm added that CMI wanted to do something that was really bold and eye-catching and a little different than what others do with jumbo cherry programs. “We wanted it to be high-end but still be hip, capture attention and pull some people over to high-value cherries,” she said. “We have a high graphic euro carton that can create a stacking pattern for display purposes, but as it’s a little tricky taking cherries out of refrigeration, they need to be in a high-traffic location such as at checkout, or in the lunch section for people to grab on lunch hour.” Other locations that are good for driving impulse buys on fresh cherries are in the freezer section near the ice cream or near refrigerated yogurt as a convenient upsell for shoppers to build parfaits and things of that nature.
“We are one of two exclusive growers of Skylar Rae in the United States, and this is our third year being involved in that program,” said Bohm. “It’s just fantastic. It’s one of the most popular cherries we offer.” Bohm raved that Skylar Rae cherries are like no other cherry, being crisp, crunchy and super sweet. “They’re similar to Rainier but a lot more red, sometimes fully red on the skin and it can be surprising when you bite it and it’s a yellow flesh cherry,” she said. “Skylar Rae is brought to us by the Toftness family in Wenatchee, WA.” CMI provides stand-alone shipper displays for this program, kits that ship with fruit that retailers can conveniently pop open and display right away each holding two cartons of fruit.
If that’s not enough, the company is also in its second season of strawberry cherries. “Strawberry cherries are brought to us by the Bosma family in the Yakima valley,” said Bohm. “We sort of were not sure what to expect last year, but it was really popular. People love the subtle strawberry flavor in the cherry and it’s a real point of difference. Strawberry cherries are a red cherry, but subtle red dots on them which also lends to the strawberry name.
“Our overall recommendation this season is to continue to have mega displays of red and rainier,” Bohm continued. “but to also offer these specialty cherry items — not displace, but to grab in addition to those classic varieties and encourage customers to try something new and hopefully come back for more.”