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Operation Flavor: Stemilt looks to boost pear sales with bold change

Three years following the introduction of its Rushing Rivers pears brand, Stemilt is celebrating another pear season with a new mantra surrounding this fruit: renew shopper confidence in pears through a strong focus on flavor. Dubbed “Operation Flavor,” Stemilt’s new initiative may sound quite basic, but it’s actually an involved journey that will look at how pears perform throughout the supply chain following a decade of pear category decline in the produce department.PearHarvest 2817

“The pear category contribution to the total produce department dropped 0.08 percent in just one year’s time and is currently at an all-time low of under 1 percent. When you see this on paper, you have two choices — follow the past and stay the same or make a bold change. Operation Flavor is Stemilt’s journey to reverse this trend and get more shoppers to enjoy pears,” said Roger Pepperl, Stemilt marketing director.

Stemilt and its pear partners, Peshastin Hi-Up, have launched this Operation Flavor mission and with it several internal pear pilots and promoters. The pilots are leaders that will look for and enact change for Rushing Rivers pears, while promoters are believers in pears that implement Stemilt’s flavor and quality standards.

“The journey is already under way internally, and in the future, we will look to bring retail pear pilots and promoters on board. If we can increase the knowledge on pears shared throughout the supply chain, we can fine-tune the quality and flavor experience for shoppers. That will result in better category results for pears,” said Pepperl.

Stemilt’s Rushing Rivers pears come from the Wenatchee and Entiat river valleys, ideal real estate for pears. It’s here where hands-on multi-generational growers from Stemilt and Hi-Up focus on harvesting pears at the optimal pressures that will result in high-flavored fruits. After harvest, there are rigorous cooling practices, an overcapacity in packing that gives Stemilt the industry’s best packaging flexibility, and packaging that’s engineered for a successful RipeRite pear ripening program.

“Our Rushing Rivers pears have always had a phenomenal story to tell, and committed growers and production teams behind them. We’ve embarked on Operation Flavor to fine-tune all these things we are doing right, and locate new theories to test throughout the supply chain that will help us ensure flavor comes first for pears,” said Pepperl.

As the Operation Flavor journey gets under way, Stemilt is excited about the addition of two new ThermalTech TarpLess ripening rooms at its Olds Station facility in Wenatchee. The extra-deep rooms will carry out the company’s RipeRite ready-to-eat pear program in hopes of delivering both consistency and flavor to produce departments. Two dedicated pear ripeners are among the new Operation Flavor pear pilots, and they will be looking at ways to fine-tune the RipeRite process throughout the season.

“Just like at retail, we’re aiming to do a lot of little things right to make Operation Flavor a reality. It’s a journey, and one our entire team is passionate about. Rushing Rivers pears are going to be even better today because of the people behind the scenes looking to steer a new course for pears,” said Pepperl.