Pamela RiemenschneiderChinese New Year’s early arrival this year – Jan. 23 – has limited opportunities for some produce shippers, but brands like Frieda’s and Melissa’s will have had retail marketing efforts in place for weeks.
It’s the year of the dragon — a symbol of power and prosperity – on the Chinese calendar. The holiday fell on Feb. 3 and Feb 14 in 2011 and 2010, respectively.
“We needed some more time to get fruit packed and sent,” said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager at Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash. “We would have preferred February. It was a good Chinese New Year, but the timing is a killer when we’re two to three weeks late on the apple harvest and the holiday is two to three weeks early.”
Fuji apples filled in some of the demand that couldn’t be met with red delicious – down 8% this year in Washington – or gala. The deep-red strains of gala required for the Chinese New Year market are still young and coloring wasn’t ideal, Queen said. Red, green and gold are symbolic colors for the holiday.
“Our fujis were up nearly 40%,” he said. Apple exports for the holiday have been completed.
Others, eyeing the U.S. market, welcomed the Jan. 23 date.
“The timing keeps the momentum going,” said Hazel Kelly, spokeswoman for Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Inc. “Retailers have been pushing and promoting Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, and now it’s almost a dead zone. Chinese New Year can pump up the sales and keep the momentum going. It’s actually helping the Buddha’s hand, which is an earlier citrus.”
Courtesy Frieda's Inc.Frieda’s Specialty Produce offered a 16-by-36-inch Chinese New Year banner for retail clients participating in the company's Year of the Dragon promotion. Frieda's has promoted the holiday since 1973.Frieda offers a Year of the Dragon promotion to retail clients, including a 16-by-36-inch Chinese New Year banner and point of purchase signs. Frieda’s will unveil a Facebook promotion for the holiday on Jan. 3, Kelly said.
“We encourage retailers to group Asian produce in one area, maybe creating a separate display to inspire their shoppers,” Kelly said.
Retailers and consumers can expect full availability of staple Asian produce items – bok choy, snow peas, napa cabbage, daikon, sugar snap peas and others – said Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Los Angeles-based Melissa’s/World Variety Produce Inc.
“The ones we’re probably going to struggle with, though I can’t predict the weather, are the Chinese eggplants and Chinese long beans. Sometimes in February we run into issues with lemon grass, but that’s fine now. We’re able to fall back onto Mexico supply of leafy greens if California is not supplying at the rate we’d like.”