Fall is an interesting time for retail promotion as there are a number of organic fruits in season but few offer promotional opportunities. Fall crops that will be merchandised but usually at relatively high prices over the next several months include grapes, pomegranates, mandarins, persimmons and Asian pears.
California’s fall grape deal might offer the best chance for some organic promotions of these fruits, but in only a limited way. “We will have consistent supplies in September, October and November, but I question whether we will have promotable supplies,” said John Harley of Anthony Vineyards Inc., Bakersfield, CA.
He said that as the season plays out, fewer and fewer shippers are still involved on the organic side of the aisle which means that demand tends to exceed supply. Nonetheless, his firm will have green, red and black organic varieties for the next 10 weeks or so.
Harley noted that after the California organic deal concludes--- possibly as late as early December----organic grapes will be few and far between until the California season starts again in the Coachella Valley next spring. Though there are foreign suppliers of grapes to the United States, there is very little organic production shipped due to import protocols calling for fumigation. “There might be a few (organic grapes) from South Africa and Peru, but very few,” he said.
Stephen Paul of Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, CA, agreed that promotional opportunities for organic grapes are almost over. As the season progresses, he said organic grape offerings will dwindle and will get even more expensive. “We will be in a demand exceeds supply situation for much of the time but it’s a good crop of grapes,” Paul said. Because of the shorter supply, he does not expect to be selling many organic grapes from storage this year. “It’s going to be a pick, pack and ship crop,” he said of the fall production.
Homegrown, however, does have other fruit options. Paul said the firm’s organic fruit line-up for the next few months will include persimmons, pomegranates, Asian pears and citrus. The company has significantly increased its Asian pear acreage and is expected to have volume through much of January. Homegrown is selling eight different varieties of Asian pears including six brown-skinned and two yellow-skinned varieties.
With prolong summer heat, Paul said pomegranate production appears to be a bit light this year, and the market may respond according, especially on the organic fruit. Increasing popularity should combine with lower volume to create a very strong organic market.
However, he said Homegrown does offer an alternative label, which is essentially second grade fruit at a discounted price. He said this option works very well for pomegranates as the outside peel can show blemishes with no impact on the arils inside.
Paul did not have a clear picture of the persimmon market as harvest is still about a month away, but he said the company does have more acreage this year. Most acreage is young, so gauging production is difficult, but it should be better than last year, he said.
Another fall fruit on the sales list is organic mandarins, which are expected to be available through October. The company will market the companion Satsumas into the spring of next year.
With many of its organic fall fruits, Homegrown is offering retailers a four-count clamshell. These increasingly-popular retail packages allow for the inclusion of a UPC label, which means an accurate ring at retail.