With summer’s first big holiday weekend upon us, retailers have been looking for fruit to promote—and California distributors of organic apricots, peaches, and nectarines have just the ticket.
“We have put together a Memorial Day tree fruit ad for our customers,” said Jarod Hunting, a produce buyer for Earl’s Organic Produce, located on the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market. “This week we have started to see good volume, primarily on yellow peaches and yellow nectarines.”
Jarod Hunting, Produce Buyer, Earl's Organic Produce
A California cold snap in late spring that reduced the bloom in some groves hurt production on some early-season tree fruit varieties, Hunting said. “In addition, the second week of May saw temperatures of only 50-60 degrees throughout the valley, which slowed down production. But the Central Valley is dynamic enough that there are enough areas that weren’t hurt by the cold.”
“This week we have started to see good volume, primarily on yellow peaches and yellow nectarines.” – Jarod Hunting
Hunting said many growers have moved into some later varieties, and the volumes have picked up. “We are still seeing strong pricing, but I expect that to soften up by mid-summer.”
Growers have talked about the increase in their fixed costs, including a 300 percent increase in the price of fertilizer, higher packaging costs, and higher gas prices. “Year over year, we are seeing a slight increase in the FOBs being quoted,” Hunting said.
To help fuel the Memorial Day weekend ad pricing, Hunting said retailers are looking at smaller fruit. “We have seen a shift this season to more value-forward fruit,” he said. “Retailers are looking at 60-64 size fruit instead of 42s or 48s to offer value to their customers.”
There will be plenty of organic fruit available for Fourth of July promotions, Hunting said, as plums will get going in a big way by mid-June, and peaches and nectarines will be at their peak volume in early July.
“We have seen a shift this season to more value-forward fruit. Retailers are looking at 60-64 size fruit instead of 42s or 48s to offer value to their customers.” – Jarod Hunting
California’s apricot crop had a very strong start and continues to have legs, Hunting said, as many growers are planting newer varieties that extend the season on both ends. Organic cherries are still in the mix, but the crop was relatively small this year, and there will be very few California organic cherries following this Memorial Day weekend. The Northwest organic cherry season is expected to get underway by mid-June.
Stephen Paul, tree fruit commodity manager for Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, CA, agreed that California tree fruit is coming on strong with organic apricots, peaches, and nectarines offering promotional opportunities. Homegrown will have good supplies of apricots into mid-July as it has a grower with a very good late-maturing variety.
Turning his attention to peaches and nectarines, Paul said “demand still exceeds supply, but supplies continue to increase. There are some possibilities for Memorial Day promotions, but Fourth of July is going to be great.”
Stephen Paul, Tree Fruit Commodity Manager, Homegrown Organic Farms
With July 4 falling on a Monday this year, retailers have a three-day weekend to promote stone fruits, and Paul believes the stone fruit category will be “front and center” as retailers mull over their summer promotion options. He said several issues—cold weather, drought, and inflationary pressures—have potentially reduced volumes of other fruits, including cherries, blueberries, and melons.
“Demand still exceeds supply, but supplies continue to increase. There are some possibilities for Memorial Day promotions but Fourth of July is going to be great.” – Stephen Paul
“For retailers, I think stone fruits are going to be the star attraction this summer. I’m kind of bullish on the stone fruit season,” Paul said, adding that from Father’s Day through the Fourth of July is an excellent upcoming window for organic stone fruit promotions.
In the Pacific Northwest, growers are still a few weeks away from the start of their stone fruit season. It has been relatively cold in the Northwest, with a lot more wet weather and chilly days than typically are experienced in May.
Brianna Shales, marketing director for Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee, WA, reported that growers are looking forward to a good season once it gets underway. Stemilt’s entire crop of apricots, peaches, and nectarines is grown and certified organic.
Brianna Shales, Marketing Director, Stemilt Growers
“The apricot season is larger for us than last year and the five-year average for the state, thanks to a great bloom and set,” she said. “We are expecting to start harvest in mid-June, with the ideal promotion window for July Fourth and then continuously for the two weeks that follow [that] important holiday.”
Packout sizes for the apricot crop are expected to be larger than last year, with fruit in the 80, 84, 88, and 96 range. The Northwest will have apricots until the end of July.
“The apricot season is larger for us than last year and the five-year average for the state, thanks to a great bloom and set.” – Brianna Shales
By mid-July, Stemilt expects to begin harvest on its organic peaches and nectarines. Shales reported that the shipper will have two main peaks for promotions—the first in early August and the second around Labor Day. “Our season wraps up in late September,” she said, adding that volumes are on par with last year and should be very promotable in that August to early September time frame.