PORTLAND, Ore. – August 20, 2020 – After careful evaluation, the pear industry is releasing the first official estimate of the 2020-21 fresh pear crop for Washington and Oregon. Pear growers and producers from Washington’s Wenatchee and Yakima and Oregon’s Mid-Columbia and Medford districts have estimated this year’s fresh pear harvest at 16.6 million standard box equivalents, or approximately 366,000 tons of fresh pears. The estimate is coming in slightly above last season’s harvest.
“Growers throughout Washington and Oregon are reporting beautiful fruit and good sizing,” stated Kevin Moffitt, president and CEO of Pear Bureau Northwest (PBNW). “We are expecting a very promotable crop and with imports down by one third and a smaller California crop, the supply chain is open as Northwest pears enter the market. Shippers are reporting solid demand for pears while retailers are also showing strong interest in the category. We are excited to promote the delicious flavor and quality eating experience of fresh pears through innovative promotions.”
Harvest has begun for early varieties like Starkrimson and Bartlett in all regions, with growers to begin picking Green and Red Anjou and Bosc over the next two weeks of August. Specialty pears like Comice, Seckel, Forelle and Concorde pears will be picked near the end of August and into the first week of September.
Four leading varieties make the up 96% of the Northwest crop, with unique and marketable varieties making up the remaining crop. Growers expect to pick 8.6 million standard boxes of Green Anjou pears, which will be more than 51% of the total crop. Other primary varieties include 4.2 million boxes of Green Bartlett pears at 25% of the crop, 2.3 million boxes of Bosc for 14% of the crop, and just under 1 million Red Anjou pears at 5.5% of the total harvest.
Promotable quantities of Comice, Seckel, Concord and Forelle will be available to delight shoppers looking for wider pear selections during the season.
The organic pear estimate is expected to come in at 1.96 million standard boxes – more than 43,000 tons which is nearly 12% of the total Northwest crop. Green Anjou and Bartlett combine for 74% of the organic crop, and Bosc and Red Anjou make up 14% and 6% respectively, with the remaining specialty varieties also available to fill out the crop year.
“It is hard to beat the flavor of a sweet ripe pear and the industry is passionate about providing consumers with the best possible eating experience,” stated Moffitt. “To enhance flavor and have consistently ripe fruit at retail, more packing houses are offering conditioned pears this season.” Moffitt continued, “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and changing shopping habits of consumers, we have shifted more resources to innovative digital programs reaching online shoppers, targeted advertising, influencer campaigns and digital sampling. Pears are a high impulse item for most consumers. With consumers shopping in stores less often and spending less time in the store overall, it is important to grab their attention on the digital platforms. We will continue to use these tactics and others to grab the attention of consumers and get them excited about purchasing pears throughout this season as we adapt to these new realities.”
Pear Bureau Regional Marketing Manager Bob Catinella added, “The Northwest pear season is starting off in a great place this year, and we are prepared for retailers to switch to Northwest pears earlier than ever before. We have a strong promotion plan in place this season, including an early push for Bartlett and Starkrimson, omnichannel collaborations with California Walnuts and Cabot Cheese, and more. As shoppers continue to prepare nutritious meals at home, we are in a solid position to have an excellent season at retail.”
Through the U.S. and Canada, PBNW will execute promotions based on new trends and will adapt to meet new challenges and opportunities. With events and in-store sampling cancelled until further notice, the communication focus will be on innovative digital sampling experiences to share with consumers and online shopping programs at retail among other tactics. The domestic marketing team will continue communicating the health benefits of eating pears and the delicious eating experience of ripe, sweet, juicy pears from Washington and Oregon. Being mindful and responsive to the current realities of the pandemic, there will be an emphasis on creating ins-pear-ation for consumers who are preparing meals at home through on-trend recipes that are shoppable on USAPears.org.
“We are excited to reach consumers in new ways this season, and we will stay nimble as the retail landscape changes,” said PBNW Marketing Communications Director Kathy Stephenson. “We will also be amplifying our messaging around storing ripe pears in the refrigerator to extend shelf life as shoppers look to reduce their shopping trips and stock their homes with healthy foods.”
For the 2020-21 season, marketing communication will start with a focus 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. Promotions that follow will include a #PearPizza takeover in October, World Pear Day on December 5th, baking and entertaining during the holidays, and launching the annual #WhatsInYourFruitBowl collaboration with other fruit organizations in March.
The global pandemic has altered the export market outlook and created a tremendous amount of uncertainty, but the PBNW export team will still be taking advantage of opportunities to launch pear promotions. Countries with a lessened impact from COVID-19 such as New Zealand, Taiwan and Vietnam may emerge as even stronger pear markets than in previous seasons, while there may be longer-term impacts to other export markets. As the largest promotional activity conducted in all export markets, in-person sampling is expected to decline as many retailers around the world have cancelled in-store sampling and product demonstrations or have altered the requirements that may make them less impactful. In response, the PBNW export team will shift more resources to retail banner ads, in-store radio advertising and social media promotions with influencers.
“Due to COVID-19, we shifted many of our tactics during the second half of the 2019-20 pear season with a larger focus on reaching consumers across the digital landscape,” said PBNW International Marketing Director Jeff Correa, adding, “We will continue to carry out these same tactics for the new season and extend them to other export markets. The pandemic has had a significant impact on the global economy, but we believe there are still good opportunities for USA Pears exports.” Correa plans to revive some of the marketing strategies used during the 2008-2010 global recession with the awareness that consumers tend to eat more at home and drive produce sales during tough economic times.