As the saying goes in the cherry industry, the only thing that’s the same every year is that it will be different. As an industry, finding ourselves on the back part of our crop as we near August is nothing unheard of…even crops as recent as 2007 historically wound down as August approached.
What is certainly different though, is that we will have shipped our second largest volume on record, with nearly 21 million (20-pound equivalent) boxes shipped through an amazingly fast 53 days of shipping!
It appears more than likely that we will end up shipping more boxes than predicted in the industry’s Round 3 estimate of 21.3 million boxes. We are now exclusively into the high-elevation late season varieties of cherries. We are seeing excellent pressures and fruit sugars ranging into the 18 to mid-20s degrees Brix (°Bx) range!
Domestically, Northwest cherries are maintaining 11% of the fruit ads in circulars with over 21,000 stores on ad promotion. While cherries can boast the most stores on ad per category (type or variety), collectively as a fruit cherries fell second only to grapes (black + red + green varieties) for the week. National average retail ad pricing remains strong for both dark sweet and Rainiers.
Promotions are still in place through mid-August for those retail and import partners that are focused on late season cherry sales – a key message of our recent seasons.
Though winding down, outreach to consumer media continues in order to help maintain awareness and attention outside of retail, while a variety of in-store radio ads will continue to supplement promotion programs in over 15,000 stores across the U.S. through the first week in August.
These next two weeks will be a critical opportunity for retailers to drive promotions and increased display space.
Northwest Cherries-funded research conducted by the Nielsen Group shows that not only are cherries an impulse buy item, but a specific opportunity exists for late season sales as over 13 million cherry buyers don’t make their first purchase until late July.
Those late buyers join the over 10 million Full Season Shoppers who are still regularly stocking their carts, spending as much as 2.4 occasional buyers over the course of a single cherry season. (Nielsen Perishables Group 2014) Fresh cherries are an expandable category, and late season promotions are THE great opportunity to provide a sense of urgency for shoppers.
Each year we see greater participation and promotion of our “Buy Now, Freeze Now!” and “Rinse, Pack, Freeze” programs. Aside from their regular inclusion into one’s diet for the health benefits, once the winter holidays draw closer we’ll begin a small marketing campaign to demonstrate the variety of ways that dried or frozen sweet cherries can add some dash to classic recipes.
International markets are continuing to absorb just over 30% of the crop.
Outside of Canada, which has pulled close to 22,000 tons already this year, Korea has maintained its amazing growth curve bypassing the 1 million box (20 lb equivalents) benchmark today … the 53rd day of Northwest Cherry shipments. The China Hong Kong region is accelerating their growth as the season progresses pushing them over 21% of all exports. Global demand continues to be strong as exceptional quality product hits each market.
Though only halfway through the traditional crop calendar, the Northwest Cherry Growers is nearing the end of the North American broadcast (print, radio & television) outreach campaigns for the season and are shifting more focus towards the more instantaneous and responsive social media.
Northwest Cherries led the season with a two-pronged approach to media of all kinds: general Northwest sweet cherry messaging aimed on increasing awareness and use, as well as a targeted campaign to leverage the surge sweet cherry health media sparked by the grower-funded health study published last year.
We’re pleased to report that our research was referenced or cited in dozens of articles and posts, including within such publications as the New York Times, Washington Post, Prevention magazine, Shape, Women’s Health, Fox News and the Food Network among just a few. Total circulation audience reach for the season should easily surpass 130 million U.S. consumers, not including social media impressions.
To engage consumers directly, the Northwest Cherry Growers launched a new version of our website (nwcherries.com) with an interactive, consumer demographic-focused landing page.
This served as our foothold as we launched an aggressive social media campaign designed to maximize cherry attention within our shortened season. Overall, analytics show our posts this season have reached 308,243 unique users within the last 3 weeks through Facebook alone.
As the last few weeks of our season progress, the North American promotions team will continue to focus on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to engage the consumer in our preservation and health promotions.
Lastly, by all accounts the tragedy and challenges surrounding the wild fire outbreak in North Central Washington (state) have had a limited effect on the cherry industry.
The large Washington packing facilities near the towns of Brewster and Chelan were back on line on Sunday … after three days of evacuations due to major forest fires surrounding the growing region. Many of you may have already seen the aerial drone footage of the fire’s devastation on news broadcasts across the country, but for those of your who haven’t, it may be viewed here: Part 1 & Part 2.
Our grower friends and industry partners up there have shown the Northwest Cherry industry’s amazingly resilience in the face of a major crisis. How quickly the region returned to harvest amidst the devastation is truly a story of managing tragedy with determination, grace and aplomb.