It has been an unusual growing season for Washington cherries. “With frost in April as well as rain and wind in June, total industry harvest volume has been reduced from the initial forecast,” says Rochelle Bohm with CMI Orchards. “We are disappointed that this season will see a smaller harvest than we’ve had for several years, but we are at Mother Nature’s mercy and so far, this season has not been kind to our growers. “Thankfully, the rain damage has been minimal. It has, however, led to harvest delays and reduced pack-outs. Cooler temperatures and breezy conditions can add days to the harvest timeline,” she added.
Strawberry cherry variety
Crop is peaking now
Washington cherry harvest started the first week of June, but the bulk of the crop will peak between June 20th and July 17. “This is a perfect time for retailers wishing to run Independence Day promotions,” said Bohm. CMI also has some late season Northern cherries that will be harvested in August. There is good news for the cherries that are still on the trees as the official start of summer is bringing higher temperatures. “We are expecting the weather to warm up again later this week and into next, which will hopefully sweeten and brighten up the cherries yet to be harvested.”
New packaging options
Despite volumes being lower than forecast, Bohm is happy with product quality and expects this to continue through the season. Demand is also very strong. “We are seeing really high demand for cherries right now, making lower supplies extra tough.” To drive in-store purchases, CMI Orchards launched several new packaging options. “From high-graphic pouch bags and clamshells, to new top seal cherry packaging. There’s truly something for every cherry buyer,” shared Bohm. The company also added American Dream pouch bags to its manifest this year. “They are a great tool for creating in-store billboards that celebrate summer and Independence Day promotions.”
Strawberry cherries on the left and a new bin for Skylar Rae cherries on the right.
Increased online shopping
Not only has CMI been focusing on driving in-store sales, the company also sees many opportunities for online shopping. Retail reports indicate there have been increases in online shopping, including curbside pick-up and grocery delivery services. “A desire to limit exposure has accelerated the growth in customers willing to trial online shopping,” said Bohm. “Before the pandemic, we were certainly seeing shifts in shopping behavior, but at a much slower rate of adoption. We expect that many people will continue to shop online once life returns to normal.” From a marketing standpoint, Bohm is excited about the new avenues of promotion digital shopping provides, including featured placement in store catalogues, coupons, and educational and nutrition information at the point of purchase. “We are excited to work with retailers to maximize promotions for their stores to see the very best sales results.”
Although this Washington cherry season is one to quickly forget, cherry growers-shippers continue to look at the future and put effort in providing consumers with high quality product. One of these ways is to expand the cherry category with new and exciting varieties. In addition to its regular varieties, CMI grows and markets two very special cherry varieties: Skylar Rae and Strawberry cherries. “Both offer consumers an elevated eating experience.”