The initial monthly shipment total for June this season came in at 11 million boxes, which is about 2 million more than early season projections. Thankfully the message has been the same - a strong & steady program from mid-June into August - regardless of the total June percentage. From discussions with shippers and growers, the additional volume appears to be a combination of random varieties in certain areas that picked out a little heavier than estimated, combined with ideal weather that has moved some blocks ahead by a day or two.
Since July first, the Northwest cherry industry has maintained an average of 520,545 boxes (20-pound) shipped per day. That puts the total at 4.7 million boxes through Monday of this week. Compared to last year, the initial shipment data for the first week of July shows a 6% increase in daily shipments over last year's average of 495,094 boxes for the same period. This crop has exhibited similar shape and timing characteristics to the 2014 since bloom, but this July we shipped 15% more fruit per day on average during that first week of the month. The 2014 average was 457,950 boxes per day, and 2009's crop came in between the two at 479,000 boxes per day.
From this point forward, there will be a continued strong push of volume by the industry to support retail programs through the end of July and into early August at least. Consumers have gotten a taste for sweet cherries this season, and the projections continue to show late season fruit available to support end of summer promotions. It's the peak of the season now, but the fresh cherry opportunity won't last long. Connect with your packer/shipper contacts today to ensure your chance to offer a few of those longest-hanging late season cherries to your customers.
Early demand has given in to peak of season demand, but growers' efforts to maintain the high bar of quality this and every season has kept fruit quality high. And it shows on the shelves. Currently, Northwest cherries are the most promoted fruit in the country for the second week straight. Combined with Rainiers, there are 24,400 cherry ads (that are trackable) circulating the United States this week, down a bit from last week's 25,700 ads. It's a decline in overall ad numbers, but aside from still holding the lead in the fruit category, it also masks the rise in Rainier's ads from last week.
To help mark the prominence of the light sweet varieties surrounding National Rainier Cherry Day this week, There's been a 37% increase in ads week-over-week. In fact, currently there are more Northwest Rainier cherry ads than there are for the four grape categories combined. While grapes may be in a lull during the shift between production regions, Northwest cherries are still facing stiff competition from the blueberry, strawberry and melon categories. The stone fruit crops of California and the Southeast have been gaining strength as well, but Northwest cherries continue to lead the department further into the summer coast to coast for the time being.
By this point in the season, consumer media campaigns are in full swing in the foreign and domestic markets. Each season that involves a mix of earned media, news features, consumer events, paid media placements, influencer relationships, and a host of other promotions to tie them all together... not to mention the emails, phone calls and orchard tours to bring the resulting stories to the light of day. It's still early yet to have tally numbers, but some of the initial news and editorial release numbers have started to come in. For instance, in just one June wire release communicating the recently published results of some cherry grower-funded health research, Northwest secured 222 placements for a cautious total of 88.3 million impressions. One article doesn't make a successful season, but every bit helps build not only awareness of the season, but adds to the case for buying fresh fruit now and saving it for use and health benefits later in the year.
Customers are driven to buy cherries, more often than not, based on the appearance of the cherries on display. Fortunately, size and color are premium this season. If you need help promoting that message, contact your Northwest Cherries representative today.