'Solid' Northwest pear crop looking smaller than last year's

During the annual Pear Bureau Northwest meeting held in Portland, OR, on May 30, industry members compiled the first official estimate of the 2019-20 fresh pear crop for Washington and Oregon. Pear growers and producers from Washington's Wenatchee and Yakima districts and Oregon's mid-Columbia and Medford districts estimated this year's fresh pear harvest at 17.3 million standard box equivalents (averaging 44 pounds), or approximately 380,000 tons of fresh pears. The estimate will mark a 9 percent decrease from the 2018 harvest and will be 6 percent below the five-year average.pears

"This year's initial crop estimate has come in lower than last year, but is nonetheless looking to be a solid crop," stated Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of PBNW. "For retailers, there are numerous opportunities for growth in the pear category, and we are providing retailers with the customized data and insight needed to set up the most effective promotions to take advantage of the profit potential of Northwest pears."

Pick dates for the coming harvest are projected to be about a week later than the 2018-19 season, staying close to the historical average. Starkrimson are expected to be picked in the first two weeks of August, with the Bartlett harvest expected in mid-August. Anjou is expected to happen in last week of August in all districts except for mid-Columbia, expected in early September. Bosc and Comice harvest will begin mid-August and span through the first half of September. Finally, Concorde, Forelle and Seckel will be picked August and September across the four growing districts.

Out of the leading varieties, the estimates for this season are 8.8 million standard boxes for Green Anjou (about 51 percent of total Northwest fresh pear crop), 4.4 million standard boxes of Green Bartlett (26 percent of the total crop), and 2.2 million Bosc (13 percent of the total crop). Red Anjou will represent 6 percent of the crop with a potential of around 1 million standard boxes.

The Green Anjou crop is showing a projected decrease of 6 percent compared to the larger crop in 2018, and down 5 percent from a five-year average. Growers estimate that the Green Bartlett pear crop will be down 4 percent compared to last season but will still see a 3 percent increase over the five-year average. The Bosc crop is estimated to be 30 percent lower than last season's large crop and 23 percent below the five-year average, while Red Anjou production is expected to be 6 percent higher than last year and 3 percent above the five-year average. The industry will also produce promotable quantities of specialty pears such as Comice, Seckel, Concord and Forelle that can please consumers in their more limited seasonality.

The organic pear estimate is expected to come in at 1.76 million standard boxes (38,800 tons), which is 10 percent of the total Northwest crop.The estimate will mark a 20 percent increase in organic pears available to the market compared to the 2018 harvest. Out of the entire organic crop, growers project 651,975 standard boxes of Green Anjou, with the Bartlett and Bosc crops sizes projected at 645,350 and 272,350 standard boxes, respectively.

"The flavor of a ripe pear is spectacular and the industry is committed to providing consumers with an exceptional eating experience," said Moffitt. "We will be grabbing the attention of consumers through a strong social media program and messaging through media and influencers while working to keep pears in front of today's consumer. We will be connecting with them through online shopping sites, promoting meal kits with pears, targeted advertising and more."

Following discussion about opportunities to improve the eating experience, the meeting concluded with a shared commitment from all members of the industry, including growers, to give consumers the most delicious pears possible throughout the entirety of the season. "The industry is comprised of nearly 900 grower families, with 50 packing houses and 25 sales organizations devoted to producing, packing and marketing the highest quality pears in the world with a taste profile that is truly exceptional," said Moffitt.

Across the U.S. and Canada, PBNW consumer outreach will focus on the many health benefits of eating pears and the delicious eating experience of ripe, sweet, juicy pears from Washington and Oregon. One medium-sized pear packs the most fiber (six grams) of the top 20 fresh fruits by sales in the produce department. The importance of fiber on gut health, heart health, and weight maintenance will play a major role in our communications with consumers and nutrition influencers in 2019-20. This season, PBNW will also be expanding omnichannel promotions and digital engagements with retailers, including program development with social media and supermarket dietitians as well as time honored support of displaying multiple varieties, and display and training contests. PBNW will continue to invest in targeted digital ad promotions using the most up to date social media platforms while also utilizing innovative digital shopping experiences to engage consumers across the digital landscape.

Following the success of PBNW's three seasonal campaign themes during the 2018-19 season, there will once again be a focus on marketing communication on the hand-picked harvest from the four Northwest growing regions, telling the story of the grower, handler and communities that make the pear industry so unique. During the holidays, the theme will shift to the plentiful varieties of pears and inspiration for the table with dishes, cocktails and decor. Additionally, there will be National Pear Month promotions throughout December enhanced by World Pear Day on Dec. 7. Additionally, PBNW will kick off the new year with a multi-month focus on the nutritional benefits that come from making pears a part of healthy diet.

The export market typically accounts for around 38 percent of the total sales in a given season including Mexico and Canada as the biggest markets, according to Global Trade Atlas. PBNW activities are conducted in nearly 30 countries worldwide by targeting both consumers and trade with the goal to create greater demand by increasing awareness on ripening, varieties, nutrition, and usage. Activities in top markets for the 2019-20 season — Mexico, Central America, Brazil, India, and the Middle East — will include in-store sampling, nutrition workshops, consumer advertising, movie promotional tie-ins, social media, and event activations. To combat the increase in competition in many of the export markets, PBNW will look to conduct one- to two-month-long promotion agreements with key retailers to increase shelf space, improve space location and put USA Pears on advertisements. In Mexico, the industry's largest export market, PBNW uses its proprietary retail pear category data to identify the opportunities for new varieties, size and grades of Northwest pears with the major retailers.

Larger-scale special activities for the 2019-20 season include a six-month long Luchador- (Mexican wrestling) themed nutrition promotion for kids and families in Mexico, a mass media consumer campaign in India, and a series of appearances on a TV advertorial program in the UAE. On Dec. 7, PBNW will launch the fourth annual World Pear Day promotion — a global celebration of the pear that includes 24 hours of continuous sampling activities in each of the PBNW's export markets.  

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