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Kevin Moffitt, President & CEO at Pear Bureau Northwest speaking at the Washington State Horticultural Association show on December 3, 2013 in Wenatchee, Washington. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Kevin Moffitt, President & CEO at Pear Bureau Northwest speaking at the Washington State Horticultural Association show on December 3, 2013 in Wenatchee, Washington. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

The fact that pears aren’t always ready to eat when consumers buy them is one of the greatest barriers to increasing consumption, says Kevin Moffitt, president of the Pear Bureau Northwest.

While a Bartlett pear turns from green to yellow as it ripens, d’Anjou or Bosc pears shows no visible signs to let people know when they’re ready to eat. That’s why the Pear Bureau runs a program called “Check the Neck” to explain to consumers that checking the neck of the pear for softness is the best way to judge a pear’s ripeness, rather than smelling it or squeezing it around the middle.

The Pear Bureau also encourages shippers and retailers to condition pears so consumers don’t need to wait several days for pears to ripen after they get them home. Studies show that pear sales can increase by up to 20 percent when the fruit is conditioned.

Pacific Northwest pear growers produced a record crop of fresh pears this season. Total volume is estimated at more than 22 million boxes, of which 5.4 million boxes were summer varieties, such as Bartlett, and the rest winter varieties, including d’Anjou.

Even so, pears are not a big item in the grocery store. In fact, they account for only 1 percent of produce sales, versus 7 percent for apples, and rank eleventh in top produce items. Fewer than 50 percent of consumers buy pears in a given year. Even the heaviest pear purchasers only buy pears seven times a year.

Strategies the Pear Bureau is using to grab attention include sales and display

contests, in-store sampling, in-store radio, and ripening information and recipes for consumers.

In addition, it reaches consumers through magazine advertising, its Web site, and its public relations program.

Last year, the Pear Bureau funded a literature review on the health benefits of pears and will publish several papers on benefits relating to diabetes, weight loss, and gut health.

The Pear Bureau conducts its marketing program on behalf of a federal marketing order administered by the Fresh Pear Committee. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires a study to be done every five years to assess the return on the investment of grower assessments that finance the program.

Moffitt said the most recent study just completed by economists at Washington State University shows that every dollar invested in the Pear Bureau’s winter pear promotions generates a return of $7.68, and for Bartlett pears, the return is $2.67 for every dollar. •

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