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CMI Orchards has big things ahead

CMI Orchards is looking forward to a strong 2018 Washington apple crop.

“We have a lot of momentum going and are excited about how are organic manifest is expanding, not just in volume but also varieties,” said George Harter, vice president of marketing for the Wenatchee, WA-based company. “We’ve got some strong programs we will be unveiling at PMA.”Kanzi-Display-Bin

One of the things CMI Orchards will be unveiling at the show is a new marketing program that it feels will be highly interactive with retailers. Although Harter wasn’t ready to offer specifics of the program at this time, he did note it would be very impactful for the growers and retailers.

“It’s something that I think retailers are going to love and be able to take forward,” he said. “We have showed it to a couple of customers to get a feel for it and the response has been very positive so far. We pretty danged excited about it.”

CMI Orchards deals in apples, pears, cherries and apricots, with apples representing the largest portion of the company.

“We have seven brands in the top 15 in conventional apples,” Harter said. “We continue to grow a large volume in organics and continue to grow our volume in branded organics. We have a lot more volume this year than last year.”

Branded apples, he noted, are gaining a lot more interest among younger generations — Harter compares it to the rise in craft beers.

“They don’t just want to eat Red Delicious or Granny’s or Galas anymore,” Harter said. “They love Ambrosia, which is No. 1, because it’s sweet and smooth. JAZZ is No. 2, and it’s sweet and tart. KIKU is really sweet. And with all of our apples, there are distinct differences in taste.”

The company works hard to team with retailers to market those differences, which helps expand the category and do it with an item consumers are looking for, commanding a higher average at retail.

“We have a number of items — seven — over the average retail in the U.S.,” Harter said. “We offer the core varieties as well as the mainstay of our manifest, but we also offer these high-flavored apples, and high-flavor organic, and increase the amount of volume to help retailers change their merchandising and continue to drive sales.”

Displays off the shelf are also important for success at the retail level, Harter said.

“The four different display shippers we have at CMI, the store can put fruit on the floor, and that can help with incremental sales off the shelf,” he said. “They can be used with a regular featured display or they can be used as a pallet display.”

At the last PMA, the company introduced the Ship and Shop bin, which are loaded on a pallet with 16 cases of apples, and retailers have had great results.

“We’re always working on packaging and everyone seems to be finding that right path to follow for more sustainable packaging,” Harter said. “We are an industry leader on food safety and we have increased our program there and we make sure we are on the cutting edge of food safety.”