This winter, I was pleased to address a large number of growers at North Central Washington Pear Day in Wenatchee. The title of my talk was “Why I am optimistic about pears,” and I examined some of the trends that lead me to believe the future of the pear business is bright. Currently, my optimism revolves around the fact that we are having an excellent year with shipments well ahead of last year and at good prices.

Some of the longer-term trends are as follows:

Moderate supply growth

Worldwide production of the European varieties of pears that we grow in the Pacific Northwest is flat. While supply in the Pacific Northwest continues to increase slowly, overall production worldwide is actually slightly below where it was ten years ago while the world population has grown by about 12 percent.

Increasing demand domestically and worldwide

Current worldwide per capita consumption of fresh pears, according to Euromonitor, is 4.18 pounds with a projected  growth rate of 2.4 percent from 2010 to 2015. While 2.4 percent growth may not sound like much, based on the overall global market, it represents about a 14-million-box increase in consumption per year worldwide. Domestic consumption of pears has been gradually increasing, and export shipments are setting records.

Population and middle-class growth

Longer-term trends that bode well include the increasing worldwide population. Most of this growth is coming from the developing countries, and the numbers themselves are not the story. The more important side of this growth is the increasing middle class worldwide, especially in developing countries. The middle class in developing countries is projected to increase 160 percent by 2020, versus just 15 percent in developed countries. All told, there will be nearly 1 billion middle-class households outside the United States by 2020.

With the January 25 opening of the China market for pears, we remain bullish on our export outlook as well.

More supermarkets

This middle-class growth is bringing more modern supermarkets online around the world. Today, there are 352,000 supermarkets worldwide versus 220,000 in 2002.

For comparison, the United States has about 37,000 with little growth expected. It is projected that by 2017, Asia will have 226,000 supermarkets, which is just over half of the 431,000 expected worldwide.

Eastern Europe is also going to continue to grow rapidly with 28 percent growth, reaching 37,900 supermarkets in 2020.

These stores with their up-to-date storage and merchandising fixtures are the ­optimum outlet to sell pears, apples, and cherries from the Northwest.

Healthy eating trends

Another positive trend is toward more awareness and actual action on healthier eating in the United States. In a recent NPD group survey, fresh fruit came out as the top snack food consumed in America—the number-one snack… above chocolate, chips, cookies, and nuts!

Fresh-cut pears

The industry has been talking about and conducting research on fresh-cut pears for a long time. Well, there has been a breakthrough with Ready Pac, a large company based in California, recently launching a product line that includes fresh-cut pears. They have fruit cups with apples, pears, and grapes, as well as a deli tray with apples and pears along with cheese and crackers. This is exciting and should prompt others to press forward and overcome the hurdles, since Ready Pac was able to do so.

So, as you can see, there are some positive trends that bode well for the pear ­business, giving me a positive attitude and outlook for the future.

 

This column first appeared in the Out of the Orchard blog on the Good Fruit Grower Web site at www.goodfruit.com.