Stemilt's Brianna Shales Talks California Cherry Season
WENATCHEE, WA - When it comes to cherries, the excitement surrounding the season’s start cannot be overstated. Retailers and shoppers alike eagerly await the return of cherries to the produce department—you can count me among them. To learn all I could about the start to California’s cherry season, I turned to Brianna Shales, Stemilt’s Marketing Director.
“We will begin harvest in early May. California appears to have a larger crop than last year (which was considered a small crop) with estimates of over 9 million 18 lb cartons from the industry,” she noted. “Of course, that will always depend on Mother Nature, but we are seeing a good crop set in most districts. Sizing and quality should be very strong. There is a lot of pent-up demand for cherries globally, so we are looking forward to helping to fill that demand in a few short weeks.”
As retailers prep to handle this pent-up demand, I asked Brianna what some of her best tips were for marketing cherries.
“Cherries are one of the few true seasonal items left, so you don’t want to miss a week or opportunity in promoting them,” she remarked. “It’s important as they return to season and once volumes pick up, that they are given great placement in store and online. Cherries are purchased on impulse, so it is important that we remind shoppers they are back. Focusing on quality really helps drive that repeat purchase. And finally, plan promotions closely with your supplier, as things can change often during the season. So far, it looks like California cherries will have good volumes for retailers to run Memorial Day ads, which is always nice timing.”
With generations of experience at its back, Stemilt is an excellent supply-side partner for retailers anxious to capture cherry dollars.
“Our cherry king and fourth-generation grower, Kyle Mathison, always says that cherries are a game that you win by inches, and I would say that Stemilt has become the premium place for cherries because of all of those little things that we strive to do right for cherries, and doing them consistently,” Brianna noted. “We are obsessive about lining up harvest timing with cherry quality, as this fruit doesn’t gain flavor once it is picked, and that consumer experience is so important for repeat purchases. We have a robust cold chain for cherries—starting in the field with hydro-cooling and running all the way until cherries are shipped on refrigerated trucks. It’s very important to maintain quality and give the retailer and consumer the extra time with a perishable item like cherries.”
Stemilt also offers unique brands, like 5 River Islands® hand-picked cherries in California to Skylar Rae® cherries and A Half Mile Closer to the Moon® cherries in Washington to help differentiate the program.
“Cherries are a huge dollar generator for the produce department each summer and Stemilt is a leader in helping retailers understand the crop and making the most out of promotion opportunities through quality first to drive repeat sales. We have the longest cherry season in the industry, starting in May in California and not wrapping up until we harvest the last cherries on our high altitude cherries in Washington State. This year, we will have a nice transition between California and Washington. July is always a big cherry promotion month and will have opportunities for conventional, organic, and Rainier cherries,” Brianna concluded.
Be sure to continue checking in with AndNowUKnow as we cover the latest info on the cherry season.