Rainier variety cherries ripen up in the orchard. ( Courtesy Chelan Fresh Marketing )

Chelan Fresh bumps up Orondo Ruby deal

Chelan Fresh Marketing, Chelan, Wash., expects to have more of its Orondo Ruby cherries this year than last, said Mac Riggan, director of marketing.

In 2017, the company produced about 70,000 cases of the fruit, but this year, the total should be in the range of 80,000 to 90,000 cases as trees come into full production.

“It’s like eating a dark, sweet cherry and a rainier at the same time,” Riggan said.


CMI adds to staff, expands organic acreage

CMI Orchards, Wenatchee, Wash., has added marketing and food safety employees, updated its website and increased its organic acreage.

George Harter, most recently with The Kroger Co., Atlanta, last year was named CMI’s vice president of marketing; Danelle Huber, most recently with Wenatchee-based Van Doren Sales, is marketing specialist; and Doug Culbertson, most recently with National Frozen Foods, Quincy, Wash., is now food safety manager.

CMI Orchards has increased its organic cherry volume by 50%.

The company also has launched an updated website where consumers and retailers can learn more about the CMI brands and the company, Huber said.

And CMI Orchards has increased its organic cherry volume by 50%.

“This season, we finished transitioning several orchards, so we will have significantly more organics to sell,” Harter said.

The company has sold organic cherries for about seven years and features organic Chelan, bing, Skeena, lapin and rainier cherries.

“Our Daisy Girl label has always had a strong following . . . so having our Daisy Girl brand cherries, adds another offering to our organic line,” Harter said. CMI offers a variety of packaging options for its conventional and organic products.

The company packs Nature’s Candy cherry pouch bags, clamshells, poly bags and Euro cartons, he said.

Its Daisy Girl organic cherries are available in the same packaging. CMI also recently added a 6-ounce cherry Snack Pouch to its product line and offers bulk cherries in a 2.5-kilogram gift box.

Superfresh Growers' Two-Bite Cherries
Courtesy Domex Superfresh Growers


Domex extends Two-Bite Cherries

Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash., plans to extend its Two-Bite Cherries program this season after its successful debut last year, said Mike Preacher, director of marketing.

The jumbo-size, branded dark sweet, rainier and organic cherries are available in pouch bags and clamshell containers.

The Two-Bite Cherries program is “a creative way to secure cherry sales through August, well after the July Fourth and Canada Day ad periods,” the company says.


Grower Direct adds new acreage

Grower Direct Marketing LLC, Stockton, Calif., has added some new acreage, said Matt Nowak, who handles exports and domestic sales.

The company expects to ship about 850,000 boxes from June 10 until early to mid-August. Nowak said he anticipates good quality this season, weather permitting.

“There will be a lot of fruit for Fourth of July promotions,” he said.


Oneonta adds optical sorters

Over the past three years, Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, Wenatchee, Wash., has added two Unitec optical sorters with a total capacity of 60 lanes in its cherry packinghouse, said Scott Marboe, director of marketing.

“It’s a great machine that has done wonders for us,” he said.

The company also has added clamshell machines, bagging capability, and has changed out its front-end bin dumper to handle fruit more delicately, he said.

It’s a great machine that has done wonders for us.

“We’re growing every single year,” Marboe said. The company expects to pack 2.3 million cartons of cherries this season, an increase of a couple hundred thousand over last year, and plans to reach 2.8 million cartons before it winds down its expansion program, he said.


Orchard View expands by 30%

Orchard View Farms, The Dalles, Ore., is planting some new cherry varieties this season and also will increase its production by about 30%, said Jon Bailey, cherry deal manager for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, which markets the grower-shipper’s product worldwide.

Orchard View grows all the major Northwest cherry varieties, Bailey said, and is adding some new ones, including early varieties Santina, Benton, BlackPearl, BurgundyPearl and EbonyPearl, all of which look promising, he said.

The company is boosting its production of late-season Cordia and Regina cherries, many of which are exported, primarily to Asian markets.

The firm may use those varieties in special clamshell programs with some of its domestic retail partners as well. Orchard View also has made a major investment in packinghouse upgrades that should increase efficiency up to 25% and reduce bruising and stem-pulling through the old eliminator sizers and cluster cutters, he said.

Orchard View expects to expand another 30% to 40% in the next four to five years.

The company is increasing its cherry output by leasing or purchasing other small and medium-size growing operations that have found it difficult to deal with labor shortages, stricter government regulations and overall rising costs, Bailey said.

Finally, Orchard View has hired Mike Omeg, last year’s Northwest cherry grower of the year, as research and development horticulturist, and has absorbed his acreage into Orchard View’s cherry program. The company expects to expand another 30% to 40% in the next four to five years, Bailey said


Pride Packing joins Sage Fruit

Vanguard International’s Pride Packing Co., Wapato, Wash., is now part of Sage Fruit Co., Yakima, Wash., said Chuck Sinks, president, sales and marketing at Sage Fruit.

The merger should boost Sage Fruit’s cherry production by 10% to 15%, he said. “We’re looking to grow our volume to keep up with the demand,” he said. Sage Fruit will continue to operate the Pride Packing Co. packing line and will handle its domestic sales of Washington state apples, pears, apricots, peaches and nectarines as well as its cherry deal.

Sage Fruit also added a state-of-the-art cherry facility in 2017.

“All of our cherries in 2018 will be run across the optical sorters,” Sinks said.

The new sorter will enable the cherries to be sorted more quickly and efficiently. Sage Fruit has also added an organic dark sweet cherry deal this season. The program will start out small — about 5% of the company’s cherries — but will grow in future seasons, Sink said.


Rainier increases organic cherries

Organic cherry production is expected to be up by 15% this season for Rainier Fruit Co., Selah, Wash., said Andy Tudor, vice president of business development.

The company expects to start its cherry deal the first week of June and should have promotable volume of organic cherries from the start, he said.

Rainier Fruit should have promotable volume of organic cherries from the start.

“We encourage our partners to promote organics early on,” Tudor said. “There are a lot of dollars to be made there for the category.” The first three weeks of June should be Rainier’s prime promotion time for organic cherries, he said, but the company will have organic varieties available later in the season as well. The increase is the result of new fruit coming into production, he said.

The organic cherry program is in step with the organic programs for other commodities the company sells, including apples, pears and blueberries, he said.

Stemilt Skylar Rae cherries
Courtesy Stemilt Growers


Stemilt variety hits big numbers

Skylar Rae, a proprietary cherry from Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash., “is going to really hit some volume this year,” said Roger Pepperl, marketing director.

The variety was introduced in 2016, he said, but this will be the first time volume will reach a sizable number.

“It’s still going to get bigger,” Pepperl added. “We’re still on the early side of the deal.”

Skylar Rae is a yellow cherry with a red blush, and it is super-sweet — typically 22-25 brix — he said.

“It’s the sweetest, firmest cherry we grow.”

It will be available in late June and is only the third cherry to have its own Price Look-Up number, he said.


Symms Fruit Ranch using new sizer

This will be the second season Symms Fruit Ranch Inc., Caldwell, Idaho, will be using its new Unitec cherry sizer, said saleswoman Sally Symms.

“It’s really accurate for sizing as well as checking quality and getting uniform color in the pack,” she said.

The company, Idaho’s largest cherry grower-shipper, expects to have 150,000 cartons of several kinds of cherries this season, up from 125,000 last year, she said.