Despite September frosts that damaged about 30% of Chile’s cherry crop, U.S. buyers and consumers still should expect to hear more about imports this winter.
“Considering the exponential growth in the overall cherry volume produced season over season, Chile is still estimating a net increase of half a million cases over last season’s total cherry production,” said Evan Myers, director of imports for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Chilean Cherry Committee has launched its first North American marketing program with plans to target retailers for holiday promotions.
“It’s still going forward,” said Karen Brux, North American managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, San Carlos, Calif.
“Our marketing program has not changed. It will be a smaller market than Asia, but we expect strong growth.”
The U.S. represented Chile’s largest export cherry market as recently as 2009.
Although shipments to the U.S. haven’t changed drastically since then, Chile’s exports to Asia have increased rapidly in the past few years. Asia now represents more than 70% of Chile’s export cherry business, with the U.S. in a distant second at 15.6%.
Chile, which ranks 10th in the world in cherry production and third in exports, already accounts for more than 80% of the cherries imported into the U.S.
But with an abundance of new plantings in the ground, Chilean growers are eager to expand their business. The country’s planted acres increased more than 80% from 2007 to 2013.
Brux said Chile plans to export 8,200 tons of cherries to North America this season, and that total is expected to more than double by 2015-16.
“Volumes are growing exponentially,” she said, “so marketing programs are being put in place to support that expansion.”
The Chilean Cherry Committee started its efforts a few years ago in Asia, and the committee is ready to make a push in the U.S. as well.
Brux said product information sheets with usage and nutrition tips, point-of-sale cards and other materials would be developed to help retailers promote the product and educate consumers.
Chile’s cherry season runs from November through January. Brux said the committee plans to work with Asian retail stores in the U.S. to promote cherries for Chinese New Year in late January.
“It’s a short season, so our efforts will be focused on January,” she said. “Cherries are really popular in Asian markets, so the timing should be perfect.”