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The world of organic production and marketing continues to blossom at Rainier Fruit Co. in Yakima, WA. “In the last decade, Rainier Fruit has made a significant emphasis in developing a viable organic program,” Director of Marketing Suzanne Wolter told The Produce News Jan. 17.

“Ten years ago we outsourced the sales and packing of our organic product which represented less than two percent of our total production,” she said. “We now are fully vested in developing a world-class organic program with 20 percent of our apples and pears organically RainierSignificant changes have occurred in organic fruit production at Rainier Fruit Co. A decade ago, the company outsourced its sales and packing. Looking at the company’s overall apple volume, the organic category accounts for 20 percent of fruit grown and marketed. (Photo courtesy of Rainier Fruit Co.)grown and 95 percent of our blueberries will be packaged organic. We now have four organic certified facilities, one of which is organic only.”

Consumer interest in organic purchases is on the rise, and Ms. Wolter said that those custumors are willing to pay a premium price for their commodities.

“Consumers say that supporting local growers, health, environmental stewardship and flavor are reasons for purchasing organic,” she said. “Sales of our organic products have continued to grow despite the economic situation the last several years. Interest in organic products continues to grow, and apples are one of the easiest items to add when a retailer begins to stock his organic section as they are less perishable and therefore less of a risk compared to other items.”

Looking at production she went on to say, “We have increased our organic product 2.5 fold in the last five years. Even with this growth, we continue to experience a demand exceed supply situation on key varieties.”

According to Ms. Wolter, even retailers in areas of the country that “haven’t registered high” with organics such as those in the Midwest and the South have shown growth in the past few years.

Ms. Wolter provided this assessment of Rainier Fruit’s strategy with organics in the future. “Rainier will continue to respond to consumer demand. If the interest is there, we’ll produce more organic apples, pears, cherries and blueberries. Retailers are limited to the amount of shelf space available in the department overall. Specifically in the apple category they will be forced to develop strategic plans and merchandising programs to meet both apple category and organic category goals. Organic items that are great-tasting and premium in appearance will continue to gain momentum and succeed eventually displacing the weaker items.”