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Consumers lack fruit facts

Workers at Naumes Inc. prepare Red Anjou pears for packing at the Medford plant. The plant will soon switch to packing the final pear crop of the season, Bosc pears.

Retailers assert ripening tips would increase pear sales

— Washington AgriNews Service

CASHMERE, Wash. -- Retailers touring Central Washington's prime pear-growing region believe pear sales could increase if shoppers get more information about varieties and ripening techniques.

Many retailers have begun pre-ripening fruit, or at least removing them from refrigerated displays, said Wade Paulk, merchandising supervisor for the Harvey's Supermarket chain in Nashville, Ga.

But there are still markets where the pears are sold cold and hard, making them a tough sell to buyers who don't know that a day or two in a paper sack will ripen the fruit.

Consumer and retailer education is vital to increasing sales, said Dean King, director of produce merchandising for Associated Wholesale Grocers in Oklahoma City, Okla. We need to find a method to get more information into the consumer's hands.

For instance, California summer fruit growers recently began a promotion that puts a printed paper sack next to supermarket displays of their fruit, explaining how the fruit should be ripened. The Pear Bureau Northwest could try a similar approach, said Al Kling, director of retail sales for the Movsovitz Produce Company in Jacksonville, Fla.

And some retailers are still hesitant to ripen pears for display because they spoil more quickly. The waste is greater, said Kling, but you still come out ahead because you're selling more pears.

Information about pears would be particularly useful coming from growers, said Billy Parrish, director of product operations for the Gooding's Supermarket chain in Orlando, Fla. He said the Washington Apple Commission sponsored a successful promotion that brought apple growers to Florida to pass out samples to shoppers in Florida markets.

They did it over one weekend, and the response was fantastic. We actually increased our sales on different varieties of apples,'' Parrish said.

But stores need more varieties to display, and both shoppers and retailers need a better idea of what's available and how those varieties taste. During this tour I saw a beautiful golden Asian pear called a Smoothie, Parrish said. And if I'd known it was out there, I would have bought some a long time ago.

The same principal applies to growers, said Paulk. The growers I talked to on this trip had never had a conversation with a retailer before, and that amazed me, Paulk said.

Consumers lack fruit facts