The Pear Bureau Northwest will do research this winter to identify the obstacles to producing fresh sliced pears. The bureau has received a rural development grant of $26,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help fund the project and will contribute a similar amount.
A number of producers in the Pacific Northwest are successfully producing and selling fresh sliced apples, but Kevin Moffitt, president of the Pear Bureau Northwest, said production of sliced pears is very limited. Gorge Delights at Hood River produces some slices, but only for local outlets.
The Pear Bureau hopes that the research will show where the marketing opportunities lie for fresh sliced pears by gathering information from retailers and food service operators, including school meal providers. Moffitt said packaged fresh produce is a huge category at retail with a lot of growth.
The pear industry has looked into producing sliced pears, and the Pear Bureau has done studies to gauge consumer interest, Moffitt said. “But taking that information and putting it into practice has been a problem.”
Not being round, pears don’t fit into machinery as well as apples do and there are questions about how much waste there would be, particularly in the neck of the pear. Also, maturity of pears is not consistent.
Another challenge is that when pears are soft enough to be eaten, they’re too soft to transport very far. Research needs to be done on the best type of packaging to ship them across the country.
Moffitt thinks d’Anjou, Bosc, and Concorde pears might be the most suitable varieties. Bosc can be a tasty pear even when a little crunchy. Bartlett and Comice might be too soft for slicing, however. “We’re trying to uncover what the problems are and see if we can find some solutions,” he said.