Longer cherry season brings opportunities, challenges

05/14/2010 10:55:33 AM
Tom Karst

“The range of outcomes on cherries is still pretty huge,” Lutz said.

One retail source said cherries have been a winning category.

“The cherry business has  been very, very good,” said Lucky Hicks, senior vice president for perishables at Associated Wholesale Grocers, Kansas City, Kan.

“Cherries don’t cannibalize anything,” he said. “They just cause people to gravitate to the produce department.”

Hicks said many retailers he works with like to promote every week.

“We go after it every week,” he said. ‘When it is over it is over.”

Lutz noted there are retailers who keep cherries above the 5% threshold for total contribution to produce sales throughout the season, while others may drive sales to 5% or 6% for just two or three weeks.

There is a much bigger opportunity for retailers than has been realized so far, Lutz said.

“I think the true opportunity of cherries looks more like the strawberry business than it does the traditional in-and-out business of cherries,” he said.

Cherries have the potential to be a consistently promoted, high-sales item for the majority of the summer, but not all retailers have made it to that point, he said.

The appeal of cherries shouldn’t be diminished by the fruit’s slightly larger marketing window, sources said.

Retailers invest so much time and effort in cherries because of the fruit’s strong performance, said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Yakima-based Domex Superfresh Growers.

“It is cherries, and you think summer,” said Joan Tabak, sales manager for Fridley, Minn.-based Roland Marketing, marketer of Green Giant-branded Washington and Oregon cherries.

Tabak said retail price points will be attractive to consumers.

“Cherries are one of those luxuries that people will buy, no matter the economy,” Tabak said.

Keith Horder, director of business development for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., said cherries are one of a handful of items that doesn’t cannibalize sales of other fruit but instead adds incremental sales to the retail bottom line.

“They are one of the last unique commodities left,” he said.


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