Two seasons ago CMI Orchards launched its American Dream cherry program primarily for exports. Since its inception, the promotion has been met with exceptional response.
Last year, in fact, a special invitation was extended for a July visit to Washington, DC, for which American Dream was selected to represent Washington state in a Made in America event at the White House, said Rochelle Bohm, brand manager for the Wenatchee, WA-based company.
Bohm said the program is especially significant this year as COVID-19 impacts the lives of Americans and explained the meaning of the promo and its Stars and Stripes artwork.
“The label represents a patriotic nation, where we all stand in support of our war heroes, veterans and military families,” she said “The label also symbolizes unity in a time where there is a lot of division. With a special kick-back component, we’re able to support incredible causes such as local community veteran events, as well as national organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project.”
This year a new high-graphic pouch bag and two-box shipper display have been added to the program, which Bohm said is a success “for a number of reasons. It makes people feel proud and inspired. It reminds us all that we live in the land of opportunity, where dreams are possible."
“In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, retailers are eager to create uplifting and positive promotions in their stores and believe a powerful program like American Dream can help bring hope and strength to their community.”
As July 4 draws near, she said, “We will have excellent promotable volumes in alignment with Independence Day celebrations, which bodes well for mega Americana-themed cherry displays that will help capture those important impulse cherry purchases.”
Originally thought to be an early season, Bohm said, 2020’s harvest is expected to kick off the first week of June. “We had a bit of a milder winter, which has pushed forward the harvest timeline by a few days. Things were on track for a May start, but a cooler spring has slowed things down a little. Now we’re expecting to kick off harvest around June 2-3.” She added that frost in the early spring thinned out some crops, and overall Northwest volumes could be down from 2019.
The season will start with Chelans, followed within a few days by other red varieties.
“The peak opportunity for red cherries looks like it will align nicely with Independence Day promotions this year,” Bohm said, adding that Rainiers will harvest within three to five days after the first Chelans.
CMI, which has partnered with Yakima Fruit, continues to add acreage, and Bohm said the total is now at 14,000, “which includes several hundred acres of plantable space. Some trees were ripped out leaving the land vacant, meaning we have an excellent opportunity to strategize and plant exactly what we think will make sense and help us to meet the needs of our customers. We’re considering new cherry varietals, varieties with harvest windows that help us fill lower volume periods, plus high-flavor genetic strains of apples.”
About new varieties, Bohm said CMI joined Stemilt Growers in offering Skylar Rae to its manifest, and she said excitement continues to grow for the yellow/red cherry. “Not to be mistaken for a big Rainier, Skylar Rae cherries are distinct and a special variety of their own. We can’t grow enough of these. They fly off the shelves, and customers anticipate them all year long. We will be launching a new two-box shipper display to help in-store promotions.”
CMI will also have a limited volume of Strawberry cherries in its first year of marketing the variety. “They are sweet and typically grow larger, and the flavor has hints of fresh berries,” Bohm said. “They’re really unique and great for that retailer looking for another point of difference.”
In addition to CMI expanding its varietal selection of cherries, CMI’s Columbia Fruit Packers has entered its final stages of installing the Unitec Cherry Vision 3.0 optical sorting line.
“This machinery is a technological masterpiece in quality control allowing for better sorting of color, pressure, and defects to ensure even more precision in grade pack-outs,” Bohm said. “This will benefit everyone through the supply chain, from our growers who strive to deliver the highest quality fruit possible, to our retail partners who can rest assured they are getting the very best quality we can deliver.”