“Have pears, will travel” could be the motto of the field staff of the Pear Bureau Northwest.
The group has five regional merchandising manager in the U.S. and Canada, said Kevin Moffitt, president and CEO of Pear Bureau Northwest, Milwaukie, Ore., and 15 part-time workers that help those managers conduct store checks.
Regional managers were calling on retailers in late July, setting up sampling programs for the first part of September.
Late October is a peak promotion season for pears, since all varieties are available at that time and competing soft fruit is finished. Other top movement periods are Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, Moffitt said.
“We have good promotions from September and October through Valentine’s Day,” Moffitt said.
Retail staff training
For the second year, the Pear Bureau Northwest offers an online training course for retail produce staff. The online training class will be promoted at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit event in October, he said. The course covers where the fruit is grown, the size distribution of pears, grade difference and talking points that produce merchandising staffs pass on to consumers about ripeness and nutrition, he said.
“Our goal is for 300 people to take it this season,” Moffitt said.
Pear Bureau Northwest also is helping new retailers adopt preconditioning programs for pears.
“Last year we had four new accounts that undertook the program, and that brought the list to 47 retailers in the U.S. and Canada that either condition fruit or who carry conditioned pears.
Some Northwest pear marketers have ripening rooms, though some retailers like to ripen pears themselves.
In total, perhaps 8% to 10% of the bartlett crop and 20% to 25% of the anjou variety is conditioned before being displayed at retail, Moffitt said.
“We will push for more red anjou ripening,” he said. “That would be a great way to make the red pear more popular and closer to ripe on the shelf.”
The Pear Bureau developed guidelines on using ethylene preconditioning programs about 10 years ago, Moffitt said, and preconditioning of pears has grown strongly in the past six to eight years, he said.
“We have growth numbers of 10% per year in the last five years,” he said.
About 30 pear packinghouses out of 50 in the Northwest — or about 60% of the total — say they have preconditioned pear programs, Moffitt said.