Although the yellow and blush rainier cherry is gaining popularity, it still occupies only about 10% of the overall cherry market.
But once consumers taste the super sweet fruit, chances are they’ll be hooked, say grower-shippers.
The question remains: how do you get consumers to take that first bite?
Display rainiers next to dark sweet cherries, and use point-of-sale information or displays to describe just how sweet rainiers are, said Suzanne Wolter, marketing director for Rainier Fruit Co., Selah, Wash.
Rainiers comprise about 15% of Rainier Fruit Co.’s cherry volume.
“A lot of consumers still don’t know what they are,” she said. “I think (retailers) should highlight the flavor.”
Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Wash., agreed.
“I think it’s all about getting the description out there and describing how sweet they are.”
Rainiers, in fact, may reach brix of 25.
Wolter also recommended that retailers compare rainiers to other stone fruit with which consumers may already be familiar.
“We’re also encouraging them to promote them in an ad with other white-fleshed stone fruit varieties,” she said. “If consumers already know those peaches and nectarines are sweet and delicious, that will carry over into the rainiers.”
Samples, mix and match
In-store taste demonstrations can attract consumers who have never tried a rainier, said Scott Marboe, marketing director for Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, Wenatchee.
He said some retailers also have been successful conducting a mix-and-match promotion where dark sweets and rainiers are displayed side by side and priced the same.
“It’s just building awareness,” Marboe said. “I think once they taste (rainiers) and understand them, I think that helps the sales, too.”
In addition, quick-response codes on bags or clamshells can direct consumers to educational mobile websites about rainiers, Pepperl said.
He also recommended buying high-quality, large fruit — 9½ to 10 row — from suppliers to enhance consumers’ eating experiences and create return purchases.
“If you want to be a best-in-class cherry marketers, you should plan on rainiers being 10% of your (cherry) sales,” Pepperl said. “We have more and more people joining that 10% club.”
National Rainier Cherry Day, July 11, provides another opportunity to promote the crop after the big July Fourth push.
Retailers should schedule ads the first two weeks in July to highlight the holiday, Pepperl said.
Unlike last year, when cool weather delayed the fruit, this year’s rainier crop appears on schedule to ripen before the July 11 holiday, barring unforeseen weather, said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash.
During 2011, the industry shipped about 1.8 million 20-pound box equivalents of rainiers.