Cherry growers in the United States are searching for improved cherry varieties to extend the season and attract consumers.
“There have been some proprietary varieties hit the market in recent years,” said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers, Yakima, Wash. “In talking with nursery groups, it sounds as if Coral Champagne, Skeena, and Rainier have been the most sought-after varieties to plant.”
“Much like other commodities, product differentiation both through packaging that stands out and also flavor and appearance differences give retailers something to upsell, and customers something new and exciting to try,” stated George Harter, vice president of marketing for CMI Orchards, Wenatchee, Washington. “CMI is part of the Skylar Rae partnership with Stemilt, and also sells and markets Strawberry Cherries. These two varieties are very special, delicious, and fan-favorites with shoppers.”
Oppy is also very focused on new varieties, explained Jon Bailey, category director for cherries at The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. “With a decrease in Bings, the Pearl series will be increasing quite a bit with several other smaller proprietary varieties increasing,” he said.
The assortment of cherry varieties is changing for BC Tree Fruits, but the process takes time, said Laurel Van Dam, director of media relations for BC Tree Fruits, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. “Lapins is still the largest variety in British Columbia, but as new plantings go in, we are seeing early varieties like Santina and Cristalina, late varietals like Stacatto and Sentennial get planted,” she said.
Domex Superfresh Growers is increasing earlier and later season dark sweet varieties, as well as higher-tasting cherries like Coral Champagne and Black Perl, stated Catherine Gipe-Stewart, communications manager for the Yakima-based company. “We have late-season cherries in our high elevation orchards that we harvest until the end of August.”
In terms of variety availability, Dan Davis, director of business development for Wenatchee-based Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, said the Bing variety is dwindling in the company's offering. "The Coral has replaced much of what was in the early part of the season, and the Crystalline is also increasing rapidly," he stated.
Sage Fruit has added new varieties of cherries to its assortment, said Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing for the Yakima-based company. However, he said, consumers do not tend to buy cherries by specific variety rather than choosing between sweet, juicier, and darker cherries. “While proprietary varieties are beginning to enter the market, it will be a while before they have a significant impact,” he said.