A bigger crop of pears in the Northwest may give retail produce merchandisers the opportunity for a bounce-back year.
With projections for an 8% gain in Northwest pear volume this year, both marketers and shippers have the ammunition to make up for a decline in total retail pear sales in the 2010-11 season.
Shippers generally consider the 2010-11 season a very good year, with strong f.o.b. prices supporting returns to the farm.
The f.o.b. market for Northwest pears was fairly strong during the 2010-11 season. Size 100 anjou pears commanded a $25 per carton price in late September 2010, and prices stayed in the $20-23 per carton range through June 2011.
Size 100 bartlett pears were priced at $22 per carton in late August last year and traded mostly from $20-23 per carton through mid-December. Size 100 organic bartletts were $30 on Sept. 21 2010, with the market ranging from $27-29 through late November that year.
Retailers experienced a gain in bartlett sales for the 52-week period ending May 28, but other varieties did not perform as well.
U.S. retail sales of pears in traditional supermarkets totaled $263.9 million for the year ending May 28, off 1.3% in sales and 7.4% lower in volume than the previous year, according to statistics from the West Dundee, Ill.-based Perishables Group.
Pears did not keep pace with total fresh fruit sales at retail. Total fruit sales for the period ending May 28 were $12.4 billion, up 2.8%.
Volume of all fruit moved was 10.2 billion pounds, up 2.1% compared with year-ago numbers.
Broken down by category, Perishables Group statistics showed that bartletts totaled $109.2 million in sales, 4.3% higher in sales but off 1.5% in volume.
U.S. anjou sales were pegged at $72.9 million for the 52-week period ending May 28, which represented a 7.3% decline in sales. The volume of anjou pears moved sagged at 15% compared to year-ago levels, Perishables Group data said.
Bosc pear sales were $45.7 million, off 7.2% from a year ago. Volume of bosc pears was off 14.5%.
Perishables Group statistics show that pears have a relatively low purchase frequency compared with apples. Buyers on average make 3.3 trips per year to purchase pears, compared with 5.6 trips per year for apples.
About 31% of households buy pears over the course of the year, compared with slightly over 70% for apples.