The 2019 cherry crop in California will start later than it did in 2018 but it has the potential to break volume records. The late start means retailers must plan for California cherry promotions in late May and throughout June, according to an analysis from Stemilt Growers.

“The California crop is very promising. Retailers will have to wait longer than they are used to for the first promotion, but once that volume comes, they will be able to keep shelves full of great quality fruit until it’s time to transition to Washington,” says Brianna Shales, Stemilt’s communications manager.

Planning for a long season of cherry sales is the message Stemilt conveys in its just-released Fruit Tracker Fast Facts video analysis of Nielsen retail scan data from the past two cherry seasons.

Cherries made up 4.7% of fresh produce sales on average during their 20-week summer season in 2018. The average store sold 488 pounds per week for $1,542 dollars, both of which were down double-digits from the 2017 cherry season.

“Last year’s crop shortage on early season cherries when compared to 2017 was the likely cause for the dip,” says Shales. “Our Fast Facts video reinforces the fact that no two cherry seasons are ever alike, and each season, including 2019, has to be approached differently.”

In 2018, dark-sweet cherries sold for $3.08 per pound on average in the U.S. This was up 12.7% from the 2017 crop. Golden Rainier cherries made up 5.2% of the cherry category volume in 2018 but 7.8% of category dollars with an average retail price of a whopping $4.71 per pound.

“Dark-sweet cherries are the workhorse of the category and planning for big promotions when the crop allows it is vital,” says Shales. “Rainiers have a shorter season but are equally worthy of promotions. Even when on ad, they are a high-ring item.”