Optimism underscores Chelan Fresh cherry deal
The 2021 Northwest cherry season is just around the corner and Chelan Fresh is looking forward to getting started selling what looks to be a very good crop of cherries. “We’re going to have promotable volume as the overall weather has been good. We are looking at a quality crop of good-sized fruit,” said Mac Riggan, director of marketing with Chelan Fresh.
A strong transition from California would go a long way toward a smooth start in the Northwest and Riggan is optimistic, “I think California will set us up for a good start up here,” he said.
“We’ll get started the first week of June,” he continued, “and really rolling around June 15 with promotable volumes from the whole state for the 4th of July.” To the benefit of all, the marketing window appears to be wide at the moment, with bloom spread out enough to make for a long season. “We’re really optimistic about an 80 day window for marketing cherries. There should be some opportunities toward the end of August this season.”
Riggan expects Chelan Fresh to have good volume on their Orondo Ruby Cherry, approximately 30,000 boxes. The Orondo Ruby cherry features a crisp skin and is both sweeter and more acidic than a traditional rainier cherry, resulting in a big flavor profile.
“We’ll also be promoting the Wild Cherry we have, which is a dark red, sweet cherry. We ship both of these cherries in a 1-pound clam. They’re each really nice points of differentiation for our retail partners and are fun and exciting items without breaking the bank on price point. We expect good quality on the Rainier crop for us at Chelan Fresh and we’re looking for some good export opportunities,” Riggan said, adding that there may be some transportation challenges for export shipments, but overall he expects a very successful export season.
Packaging wise, the company will be shipping their popular top seal packs once again. “It’s a 3-pound pack and the top is covered by a resealable film. It’s really pretty packaging, really nice,” said Riggan. The majority of the shipper’s fruit will be packed in pouch bags, which are a convenient option for consumers. “Bags make it really easy for consumers to grab and go, however it can often be hard for shoppers to quickly identify what kind of fruit is actually in a pouch bag. We addressed that issue. Our pouches are designed for the consumer to be able to see what’s inside,” he said, adding that the Chelan Fresh pouch bag was the brainchild of one of their team members, Julie DeJarnatt. “She took some feedback from retailers and she worked with our whole team to address their concerns and as a result, has really made an impact across the whole category when it comes to cherry pouch bags.
“There is a little bit of a question mark when it comes to online shopping,” Riggan continued. “We’re counting on shoppers coming into stores for cherries because they’re often an impulse item. With online shopping, there seems to be less browsing, and it’s easier for consumers to miss a grab and go item like a cherry pouch. Retail is doing everything they can, to help drive sales both instore and online and to make sure customers who aren’t necessarily looking for cherries find them during their shopping experience.”
To aid retailers, the company provides cherry merchandising bins with the footprint of a euro box, allowing for a convenient secondary display option either in the produce section or by check out. “We offer these for free to retailers,” said Riggan, who also pointed to increased promotions on social media and other digital assets aimed at helping retailers get the most out of their Chelan Fresh cherries.