U.S. pear exporters prepare for Chinese marketing hurdles

More News Top Stories
U.S. pear exporters prepare for Chinese marketing hurdles

As U.S. pears prepare for their Chinese premiere, exporters are zeroing in not just on new buyers but on ways to win over consumers with still unknown varieties.peras-rojas_51031324

Northwest Horticultural Council Vice President Mark Powers explained to www.freshfruitportal.com that time and education are key.

"The pear that we grow here in the Pacific Northwest are European pears. They are different than Asian pears which are what the Chinese and many Asian consumers are most familiar with," he said.

"It's what they’ve grown up with and are accustomed to eating. It’s crunchier, has a different texture, a different taste profile.

"We produce a high quality product, so we know we can supply the quality end of it. The challenge is really, how do you get someone when they’re going to the grocery store or buying in the fresh market to pick out a new food group and produce item that they’re not accustomed to having and haven’t grown up with? That will take some time to figure out."

Although initial shipments are just hitting the water, Pear Bureau Northwest president Kevin D. Moffitt said certain marketing strategies are already underway. Following 20 years of negotiations, after all, the industry has had some time to prepare.

"As fruit arrives, our representative will be conducting trainings for the importer as well as retail employees on how to handle the fruit, how to merchandize the fruit. Then possibly we’ll be conducting some sampling promotions this season but certainly that will be something for the long term as well," Moffitt said.

"The in-store sampling is going to be very important right off but also getting retailers to make the space for the pears, put them on promotion, at key locations within the supermarket to capture the consumers’ attention. Also this is where our point-of-sales information, our posters and flyers will be important to help catch the attention of the consumer."

Since the U.S. shipping season is already half way over, Moffitt said arrivals will start small, at around 30,000 to 40,000 boxes, and work up to around 150,000 estimated boxes next season.

For now, exporters have their hopes on red varieties, which he estimated make up about a third of initial exports. Moffitt said major varieties would include red and green D'Anjou, Starkrimson, Bosc and Bartlett.

Powers detailed the significance of red fruit in a cultural context.

"There’s a general preference for red of anything. It’s viewed as a powerful color, a healthy color, a lucky color. So our red apples sell well in China. And we hope it’s the case with pears as well that if you have red fruit that the consumer acceptance will be high. We’ll see," Powers said.

Understanding the finer details of Chinese consumer preference could pay off big down the road, he explained.

"Everybody has an eye to that growing middle class and consumer market there and anytime that you can establish a foothold among a population of that size, even if you assume that it’s not the entire billion but it’s 400 million or 300 million middle class consumers, that’s a huge hunk of potential for consumer acceptance," Powers said.

"Time will tell but hopefully the demand will allow our growers to sell more product, which will increase prices and perhaps allow for increased plantings."

New market openings are rare, he added. With China ready for business, Powers said the industry may begin pushing for access to markets such as Australia, South Korea or Japan.


Subscribe to our newsletter