Bartlett pears hang in a Domex Superfresh Growers orchard near Yakima, Wash., in late July. ( Ashley Nickle )

Chelan Fresh seeing good finish, slightly smaller sizes

Mac Riggan, director of marketing for Chelan, Wash.-based Chelan Fresh, said the company expected to start harvesting bartletts around Aug. 15 and to begin with anjous about 10-12 days later. The company estimates about 1.5 million boxes for the 2017-2018 crop.

The finish on the pears is looking good, Riggan said. Sizing appears to be down a bit, but the fruit may yet size up.

Chelan announced in May its plans to merge with Yakima, Wash.-based Borton Fruit, another tree fruit marketer. That development will not be a significant boost for Chelan pear volume because Borton doesn’t handle many pears.


CMI Orchards expecting smaller crop

Steve Lutz, senior strategist for Wenatchee, Wash.-based CMI Orchards, said this year may be a tough one for pears.

“We think the fruit quality will be excellent — the problem is we just don’t see as much fruit on the trees,” Lutz said. “As a result, at CMI we’re forecasting a 25% decline in our pear volume for the 2017 crop.

“We’re starting to work with our key customers now to lock in their supply needs so we can align our production with our customer demand to minimize any issues with the shorter crop,” Lutz said.

Staff members new to CMI since last season are vice president of marketing George Harter and marketing specialist Danelle Huber.

Harter is a veteran of Kroger, where he most recently led produce merchandising for the Atlanta division. Huber worked for years as an international marketing specialist for the Wenatchee-based Washington Apple Commission.


Diamond anticipating new packing line

David Garcia, president of Hood River, Ore.-based Diamond Fruit Growers, said the pear crop looks very clean and that sizing might be a half size or a full size smaller than the 2016-17 season.

Bartlett volume is expected to be about the same, with anjou up about 30% after a short crop last season and bosc down about 25%.

Harvest was on track to begin in mid-August, Garcia said

a new packing line with optical sorting will be operational for Diamond for the 2018-19 season. The line will be the first of its kind, built by Unitec.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Scott Marboe, director of marketing for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, which markets Diamond fruit.

“We put a lot of effort and time into it. The crew down at Diamond has made quite a few trips over to Italy.

“They’ve been working with us a lot, so it’s going to be really, really good,” Marboe said.

Garcia expects the new line to address a key retailer request.

“It gives you a more consistent product, which is what the stores want,” Garcia said. “That’s what optical sorting does for you, and so we wanted to bring that into the pear industry.”

For this crop, Diamond has been working on new cold storage buildings after heavy snows over the winter caused several to collapse.

“We have a lot of construction going on,” Garcia said.


Domex Superfresh Growers investing in organic

About one-quarter of the pear crop for Yakima, Wash.-based Domex Superfresh Growers is organic now, and in five years about one-third of the crop will be organic.

That segment has been a growth driver in the pear category, as have pouch bags, director of marketing Mike Preacher said.

Smaller fruit size makes the 2017-18 crop ideal for bags, Preacher said, and the pouches have been received well.

“Convenient with the handles, obviously, you can get the information on there to trigger the consumer what to expect with the variety, and they display better,” Preacher said, noting that the company will have bags available for conventional and organic fruit.


New storage facility on deck for Duckwall

Ed Weathers, vice president and sales manager for Hood River, Ore.-based Duckwall Fruit, said the company planned to harvest bartletts around mid-August, with winter pears expected around mid-September.

Quality looks very good, Weathers said. He expected bartletts would be at least one size smaller than the 2016-17 crop.

Looking ahead, Duckwall is working on a 20,000-bin controlled-atmosphere storage building that it hopes to have online for the 2018-19 crop. In addition, the company is keeping an eye on advancing sorting technology and expects to upgrade its equipment in the next few years.


FirstFruits expecting excellent quality

Chuck Zeutenhorst, general manager of Yakima, Wash.-based FirstFruits Marketing, said the company planned to begin bartlett harvest the second or third week of August, with anjous up next near the end of August and bosc following around the first week of September.

“Pears love the hot weather, so we’re going to have an excellent quality pear crop,” Zeutenhorst said.

Volume will be similar to the 2016-17 crop, with organic fruit accounting for 5% to 8% of the total, and slightly smaller fruit size is expected.


Honey Bear Tree Fruit anticipating good year for pears

Randy Steensma, president of Wenatchee, Wash.-based Honey Bear Tree Fruit, said the company expects about 1 million boxes of pears.

The crop may be down about 10% from last season.

“It’s not a big crop of pears, and why, we don’t know, but it should be a good pear (crop), should be good pricing. It should be a good year on pears,” Steensma said.


Northern Fruit anticipating strong quality

Bill Knight, domestic sales manager for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Northern Fruit, said growers have given positive reports on fruit quality, though sizing could be smaller than last season.

Bartlett volume is expected to be similar to 2016-17, anjou volume up slightly, and bosc volume noticeably down, as appears to be the case across the industry.


Oneonta planning anjou promotions

Scott Marboe, director of marketing for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, said the company expected a very clean crop of bartletts, with harvest on track to begin in mid-August.

Anjou production will be down a bit, but sizing looks good. Marboe said that variety is one the company is looking to emphasize this season.

“Retailers are asking us for more and more help around the country because the category seems to have been slipping the last few years,” Marboe said. “We’re trying a couple different things with a few people this year to try to keep that category on track.

“Lifestyles are changing and buying habits are changing when it comes to pears, and so we’re targeting a few things of that nature, so we’re looking forward to it,” Marboe said. “The pear deal, it’ll be a good season.”


Rainier Fruit seeing good fruit size

Randy Abhold, executive vice president of sales and business development for Selah, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit, said the company expects a healthy crop with ideal sizing.

The company should have good numbers of 80s, 90s and 100s.

“We should have a good mix between bagged product and bulk,” Abhold said. “We’re looking forward to marketing this pear crop.”

Rainier was expecting significantly fewer boscs than the 2016-17 season, possibly down as much as 50%, at least in the Wenatchee, Wash., and Yakima, Wash., districts.


Sage Fruit hearing more requests for packaging

Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing for Yakima, Wash.-based Sage Fruit, said pear quality was looking strong.

“It should be a good pear season for us, but we’re not going to be up in volume as much as we are with everything else,” Sinks said.

Sage Fruit will have some organic fruit, as some customers have been asking about it, and it is offering more packaging options, too.

“More and more people seem to be migrating to the pear pouch bags,” Sinks said. “We’ve had a lot more requests for that than we’ve had in the past, so we’ll have a full line of pouch bags for all the pears.”


Stemilt adding ripening rooms

Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers will have new ripening rooms for the 2017-18 season.

The company is making a big push for retailers to carry conditioned pears, said Roger Pepperl, director of marketing.

Stemilt expected to begin harvest around mid-August with its exclusive variety, Tosca, and with starkrimson.

While bulk sales still reign in the pear category, Stemilt sees the use of bags growing.

“We have a lot of our retailers that are selling 10% to 15% of their pears in a Lil Snappers package, where prior to that packaging in pears (in those produce departments) was less than 1%,” Pepperl said.