Outlook's strong for California pears
With the Sacramento bartlett harvest finishing up by mid-August and bosc harvest in full swing, pears will be picked through early to mid-September, said Kyle Persky, sales manager of Rivermaid Trading Co., Lodi, Calif.
Rivermaid could account for about 1.1 million cartons of California’s expected fresh crop of about 2.2 million boxes of bartletts. Bosc volume — bosc and golden russet bosc — could total close to 500,000 cartons for the state. Of that California bosc crop of 500,000 cartons, he said Rivermaid accounts for about 300,000 cartons or more.
Persky said California’s fresh pear volume totals about 45,000 tons.
California bartletts and bosc pears are expected to be available through most of October, meaning there will be some overlap with the Northwest pear crop.
“(Harvest timing) of California’s Lake and Mendocino counties is very similar to the first pears out of the Northwest,” Persky said.
Some retailers switch to the Northwest quicker than others, but Persky said the good condition and high flavor of California pears make a strong argument for sticking with California for as long as possible.
One concern of California pear shippers, he said, is the use of 1-MCP ethylene inhibitor on imported pears.
“One thing we saw this year was a big impact of carryover of imported pears that were treated with 1-MCP,” he said.
Imported pears treated with 1-MCP don’t get soft and don’t get sweet, he said.
“That’s really a concern in the long term for the pear category; what impact the 1-MCP treatment is having on the consumer perception of pears.”
Persky said 1-MCP isn’t used on California pears.
California’s organic pear volume only accounts for about 5% of the state’s total fresh pear crop, but that volume is growing.
“We are adding more and more organics to our program, and this year we added some earlier growers to our organic bartlett program,” he said.
Packaging and promotion
Persky said Rivermaid will be a position to increase its pouch bag offerings this year.
“We’re doing a lot of pouch bags, and we’d like to do even more on both organic and conventional,” he said, noting the company installed a new pouch bagging machine this year that is more efficient and accurate.
A way to add incremental retail sales opportunities is with pouch bags with medium and small fruit. Retailers like to promote bulk pears with 90s and larger sizing, while 100s to 120s can typically go in bags, he said.
Size 135 pears can work well for foodservice customers, he said, or provide promotion opportunities for retailers for “by the each” ads.
Retailers with a successful California pear program focus on bartletts, he said.
“The bartlett is the first new pear of the season every summer, and the bartlett is the first choice of consumers,” Persky said. “To really maximize the pear category you have to maximize the No. 1 variety and that’s still the bartlett.”