As of late March, the weather has been favorable with no major freeze issues and sufficient chill and dormancy needed for a quality pear crop, says Kevin Moffitt, president and CEO of the Milwaukie, Oregon-based Pear Bureau Northwest.
Pears grown in Washington and Oregon account for 88% of the U.S. commercial fresh pear crop.
Moffitt says this year, retailers should consider promoting lesser-known varieties such as red anjou, starkrimson, comice, concorde, forelle and seckel alongside better known varieties such as bartlett, anjou and bosc.
There also may be limited availability of a new pear variety called Gem in the upcoming season, he adds.
Shales of Stemilt says the company offers nine varieties of pears with bartlett, red pears, bosc and anjou making up the majority of volume.
"Stemilt has an early pear, called Tosca, that has a short seasonality and incredible flavors," she says. "It's a great pear to promote for back-to-school timing in our Lil Snappers brand of 3-pound kid-size fruits. Kids really love Tosca."
Chelan Fresh Marketing has a good crop of organic anjou and bosc pears this season, Riggan says, but he worries weather could delay promotions.
"It's a good quality crop but I feel like promotions might not happen until after the Fourth of July, which could be a challenge," he says.
Pears fit perfectly with consumers who are interested in where their food comes from and generally try to be more health conscious when shopping, says Moffitt of the Pear Bureau Northwest.
"We believe consumers are increasingly interested in eating more fresh produce that tastes delicious and offers nutritional benefits," he says. "With six grams of fiber (24% of daily value) per medium-size pear, they are one of the highest-fiber fruits among the top 20 items in the produce section."
Snacking also is a huge trend in food right now as today's young shoppers are eating smaller meals, snacks and doing so on-the-go versus cooking at home, says Shales of Stemilt.
"Apples and pears are great snacking fruits and we've played off on this trend through some of our recent display work," she adds.
Moffitt recommends retailers carry conditioned pears when possible because 51% of consumers will eat their pears within one to two days of purchasing, and research shows that retailers carrying conditioned pears average a 19.5% purchase increase.
Tudor of Rainier Fruit Co. agrees, saying Northwest pear growers carefully set conditions to best ripen pears, but he adds that other pears in the market aren't always as stringently conditioned.
"It's a challenge fighting against this," Tudor says. "But when you correctly condition an anjou pear, it tastes phenomenal."
Build displays for impulse sales
About half of pear purchases are made on impulse, which means that store displays play a large role in attracting purchases, says Moffitt of the Pear Bureau Northwest.
"We recommend placing pears in the front of the produce department to increase visibility, creating a destination pear display with multiple varieties positioned together, using natural color breaks to create eye-catching displays, decorating displays with seasonal themes such as holidays or sporting events, and using secondary displays in high-traffic store areas outside of the produce department," he says.
Promoting bags of pears, which are a relatively new item to consumers, give shoppers an additional option.
"Bag pears also offer retailers and consumers a second size, creating additional sales and they are great for kids snacks and school lunches," Moffitt says.
Finally, Moffitt says pear sales will increase when they are cross-promoted with items such as nuts, as well as salad ingredients and dressing, creating a meal-solution display. Other opportunities include cross-promotion with cheese, hot cereals and wine.