Stemilt ready to deliver World Famous Cherries in 2021
As the 2021 Northwest cherry season ramps up, Stemilt Growers is already harvesting cherries from its California orchards, and expects to continue the season through mid-June. “We will have an overlap between Washington and California harvest, and expect to manage that well because of pent up demand for cherries happening worldwide,” said Brianna Shales, marketing director for Stemilt Growers.
By all accounts, the Northwest crop should be up in volume over last year, and will have an ideal spread between growing districts to make for more retail selling days. “There were some cooler days during bloom that reduced the crop in certain areas, and variable crop set in others,” she said. “This is expected with cherries and Mother Nature, and should lend well to larger-sized fruit and great eating qualities compared to last year.” The Rainier crop also appears to be up in volume from last year allowing for plenty of promotional opportunities. Shales said that Stemilt expects to begin harvest in Washington late in the first week of June, or very soon after.
Shales expects top seal packages to continue to grow in popularity for cherries sold at a fixed weight via UPC. “In some cases they replace clamshells but in others they are a way to differentiate a premium item vs. carrying it in bags,” she said. “Pouch bags are still very common to sell cherries at a per pound price, and we expect the bulk of cherries to be sold in this manner.”
The company’s popular cherry brands will be back in 2021, helping retailers differentiate on quality and flavor. “Kyle’s Pick is a great pack to promote size and flavor in the month of July and our A Half Mile Closer to the Moon cherries are available in August to help retailers share a special story around high-altitude cherries, and offer shoppers a great finale to the season,” said Shales.
Kyle’s Pick was introduced in 2013 and is made up of select, high-quality cherry varieties that meet standards for size, firmness, and sugars. Designed to help retailers differentiate cherry size and flavors, the premium pack is available during the key July timeframe for the cherry category.
While size is an important qualifier for Kyle’s Pick, select cherry varieties are also important. Stemilt reserves select dark-sweet cherry varieties for the program, including Skeena and Sweetheart. Washington State’s long spring and warm growing season mean cherries experience longer hang time on the tree, helping fruit grow big and full of dessert flavors.
Stemilt’s continuous harvest in July allows for Kyle’s Pick packs to be available all month. In early August, the company will transition its harvest to high-elevation orchards. At that time, Stemilt begins packing its A Half Mile Closer to the Moon cherry pack. These cherries continue the premium offering that Kyle’s Pick start, but also celebrate how the lunar cycle and elevation can create a memorable cherry eating experience.
Kyle Mathison of Stemilt grows Moon Cherries at his Amigos Orchards in Wenatchee, WA. The company touts Amigos’ perfect climate for growing late-season cherries due to the high elevations, cool summer days, chilly nights and excellent soil conditions.
“We’ll be building off last year’s retail success with great quality and what we call ‘World Famous Cherries,” said Shales who affirmed that 70 percent of the time cherries are an impulse purchase, and the fact that they sold extremely well during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, inspires optimism for the 2021 season.
“Consumers love to seek out cherries when they are in season, and if we deliver a great eating experience, we can drive repeat sales and make for happy cherry customers,” said Shales. “The produce department has many items with extensive, near year-round availability these days. The fact that cherries are one of those seasonal items that command lots of attention in the summertime makes them fun for Stemilt to grow and market.”