(June 6, PACKER WEB EXCLUSIVE) As the California cherry season enters the 2008 home stretch, a small army of marketers has been making appearances on Los Angeles and San Francisco radio and television stations promoting the concept of freezing cherries. It’s part of a public relations campaign launched by the California Cherry Marketing Board, Sacramento, Calif.

“The season is so short, literally eight weeks at the top,” said Chris Zanobini, who oversees the board’s marketing program. “The goal is to give consumers another way to think of using cherries. Eat some today and freeze others to eat later on.”

Because of the board’s limited budget, the campaign — scheduled to run through June 13 — focused on California’s two largest metropolitan areas. But word of the promotion soon spread across the country.

“When they found out about it, retailers in New York, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Chicago asked to participate,” said Carolyn Becker, owner of Marketing and Merchandising Services, Denver, Colo.

The board distributed kits containing point-of-sale materials and recipe tear pads to 1,800 retail stores, Becker said.

The last of California’s cherry varieties, bings, are at the peak of volume, Zanobini said June 5.

“The cherries that are being harvested now are some of the best of the season,” he said. “The weather has been phenomenal lately for good size, firmness and flavor.”

The cherry harvest should continue through the third week in June, Zanobini said.

The concept of freezing cherries was driven by consumers, Becker said. The most frequently asked question on the board’s Web site, www.calcherry.com, was whether cherries could be frozen, she said.

California cherry campaign suggests freezing fruit
A new California Cherry Marketing Board promotion, which the board says was sparked by consumer inquiries, suggests that consumers can freeze California bing cherries for up to 3 months for later use.