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OPN Connect Newsletter 325 · June 22, 2023

Sage Fruit Expanding Cherry Program


During the 2022 cherry season, Sage Fruit Company partnered with Chelan Fruit.

“Chelan Fruit joined the Sage Fruit family of grower, packer, shippers to enhance the marketing, sales, and distribution of their Washington-grown tree fruit,” said Kaci Komstadius, who is in charge of consumer marketing for the Yakima, Washington-based company. “Through this partnership, Sage Fruit adds considerable volume of cherries to our manifest.”

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Kaci Komstadius, Consumer Marketing, Sage Fruit

Chelan Fruit is a nearly 3,000-acre farming operation complete with its own packing and cold storage facilities and is one of Washington’s leading fruit producers. The additional acreage Chelan Fruit has contributed spans the northern growing region of Washington State, providing Sage Fruit with greater geographical diversification.

“Chelan Fruit joined the Sage Fruit family of grower, packer, shippers to enhance the marketing, sales, and distribution of their Washington-grown tree fruit.” - Kaci Komstadius

“Sage Fruit will have two separate packing locations for the 2023 season—one in Wapato and one in Chelan,” Komstadius said. “Our teams have heavily invested in their packing line equipment to ensure only the highest-quality product is shipped to our retail and wholesale partners. Our lines are equipped with optical sorting which facilitates the elimination of both internal and external defects of the fruit.”

Vitalis June 2024

The origins of Sage Fruit dates back to 1999, when several Yakima family-based grower/packer/shippers decided to form a single sales and marketing desk that would allow them to provide a consistent, year-round supply of Washington tree fruit to customers. 

Today, the company provides fruit to retailers nationwide, as well as to Asia, Europe, South America, Mexico, and Canada. 

“We are proud to bring some of the world’s healthiest foods, from one of the world’s most fertile growing regions, to families worldwide,” Komstadius said.

The company offers an array of organic commodities, including apples, pears, and cherries. All of its mainstream apple varieties—Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, and Honeycrisp—have organic availability, and Cosmic Crisp and SugarBee are available in organic as well.

“We are proud to bring some of the world’s healthiest foods, from one of the world’s most fertile growing regions, to families worldwide.” Kaci Komstadius

“Additionally, we are continuously evaluating the latest technology and innovation that will allow for year-round availability of these items,” Komstadius said. “Our pear lineup of Bosc, Bartlett, Green D’Anjou, and Red D’Anjou all have organic availability and from June-July, we have organic availability of Dark Sweet cherries.”

Cal-Organic June 2024

As the demand for organic fresh produce has remained strong in recent years, Sage Fruit has made investments to expand its overall organic program.

“Not only are we planting new acreage of organic orchards, but we are actively transitioning several of our conventional orchards to meet demands,” Komstadius said. “One of the biggest hurdles in organic farming is the product’s limited storage capability.”

After a down crop year in 2022, Sage Fruit is looking forward to rebounding with a large crop volume of apples, pears, and cherries in 2023.

“Not only are we planting new acreage of organic orchards, but we are actively transitioning several of our conventional orchards to meet demands. One of the biggest hurdles in organic farming is the product’s limited storage capability.” - Kaci Komstadius

“This season brings with it a significant amount of growth at Sage Fruit, [which] in turn has built a lot of excitement for the impending season,” Komstadius said. “Our earliest cherry districts began blooming in mid-April. Given the later bloom, the Pacific Northwest cherry season looks to be running about 8-10 days later this season than a typical year. However, the variable weather patterns are lending to good separation between districts, which will allow for late-season cherries.”

The company’s organic cherry season will kick off in late June and should maintain promotable volume through late July.

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“Our sales and marketing teams specialize in building unique and customized, season-long programs to meet our customers’ needs,” Komstadius said. “With various pack styles, sizing, and in-store POP material available, our goal is to help customers maximize their sales dollars through a tailored approach.”

“This season brings with it a significant amount of growth at Sage Fruit, [which] in turn has built a lot of excitement for the impending season.” - Kaci Komstadius

While the Northwest organic cherry crop is roughly 2.5–3 percent of the total crop, it will continue to grow in the upcoming years. Organic cherries are much more labor intensive to grow, which results in higher retail pricing.

“We’re seeing an increase in demand for organic cherries now, even though it has not been nearly as strong as other commodities such as apples or pears in the past,” Komstadius said. “We are really beginning to see it take off in certain markets.”

Sage Fruit is currently in the process of evaluating several new packaging options for all its organic products. The company is committed to providing the highest-quality product and service to its customers and prides itself on being at the forefront of technology and innovation. 

“We successfully provide a one-stop-shop for our partners,” Komstadius said. “Additionally, we offer unique and flexible packaging options, and our award-winning customer service is second to none. We work hard on the farm, in the packing facilities, and in sales and marketing to deliver 'an exceptional eating experience.'"

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