Fresh cherries continue to create excitement in produce departments. Consumption of fresh cherries in the United States has increased 400 percent since 1995, from 0.3 pounds per capita per year to 1.3 pounds, according to Andrew Willis, domestic promotions director of Northwest Cherry Growers. During the cherry season, cherries generate more sales dollars per square foot of display space than any other produce item and almost twice as much as other fruits, he said.
"There is no other produce category in the world that sells more than cherries do. Our promotion programs are designed to help retailers sell more cherries."
Domestic promotion programs were trimmed by about $300,000 to reflect the smaller crop, Willis said, explaining that Âpromotion budgets are based on annual tonnage assessments paid by growers.
The total domestic budget for 2008 is now $1.38 million, and includes financial incentives for retailers who run multiple ads, in-store radio and television campaigns, targeted consumer publicity in southeastern states, and the start of a long-term investment in developing health messages.
In the export market, International Promotions Director Keith Hu is preparing for a strong export year, helped by strengthening foreign currencies. The export budget was also reduced by $100,000 to reflect the expected smaller crop, and is now at $1.65 million.
One of Hu’ s goals is to expand consumer awareness of Pacific Northwest cherries in growing markets like France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. More than 100,000 boxes were exported to Germany last year, he noted. Southeast Asian markets of Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia also have done well, importing more than 100,000 boxes in 2007.
Japan continues to be a "problematic" market, Hu said, adding that Japan is no longer the dominant Asian market for Northwest cherries, and must compete against Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan for product. Japan has become very price conscious, unlike Korea that is "gobbling up expensive cherries"and outbidding Japanese importers, he said. In Taiwan, a joint promotion with a coffee chain and involvement in a charity bake sale will help build a positive brand image of Northwest Âcherries.
"We’ re looking for 2.5 to 3 million boxes of sales to come from the export market," said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers. Although transportation costs have increased, the weak dollar makes Northwest cherries a good value in other countries. "We think that the foreign market will be a big part of our success package this year."
Northwest Cherry Growers recently received an additional $150,000 in U.S. Department of Agriculture funds for the Market Access Program, bringing the total of MAP funds for the year to $903,000."