U.S. pears hit the road in China

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U.S. pears hit the road in China

With pear volumes booming in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, sellers will have their work cut out sourcing fruit on domestic and international markets.peras-rojas_51031324

Although renewed estimates are not yet out, USA Pears' Jeff Correa said the bumper crop will surpass the previously estimated 19.8 million boxes.

"We're expecting one of our largest crops in history. There will be plenty of pears," the international marketing director told www.freshfruitportal.com.

"It's the ideal growing conditions. We had a very warm summer that helped size up the fruit so the pears are tending to have larger sizes, which means larger pack out which means more boxes."

Not all buyers will be eager to receive the season's larger fruit, however. While bigger may be better on many markets, Correa explained that the typical export market prefers smaller fruit.

"Typically exports are anywhere between 38% and 43% of the crop. This year it may be more towards 38%. Because of larger sizing, it puts more focus on the domestic market which takes more of the bigger sized pears. We don't have a lot of export markets that want to take bigger sized pears," he said.

One market welcoming large fruit will be the newly opened China, where Correa said that a gift-giving culture encourages preference for heftier sizing.

"Initially we had 100-125,000 boxes in mind [for China] but now that we’re seeing larger fruit and the importance of maximizing our export possibilities. We will probably surpass 150,000 maybe up to 170,000 boxes in China this year," he said.

"It’s a big jump and we’ve already gotten off to a good start. Probably close to 50,000 boxes have already been shipped to China."

Although China will rank around seventh or eighth for total U.S. pear exports, Correa said the nation will take the lead for the red pear market where U.S. sellers hope to strike a chord. Correa said red fruit fares well in China, meaning that up 60% of U.S. volume will be for red varieties.

"We think there’s good initial interest, especially in northeastern China where they are a little more familiar with Western pears. It will take a little bit more time in Shanghai and Hangzhou. There will be sales there but in terms of consumer familiarity and preference, it’s going to be more of a challenge because they are more familiar with Asian pear varieties," he said.

"Western pears are very different. They have different ripening characteristics and look different. So the taste and visual expectations of the Chinese consumer are different than on other markets."

To educate Chinese shoppers on the U.S. offering, USA Pears will focus on marketing through in-store sampling, television promotions and a moving roadshow.

"We have a pretty big program plan for China. The highlight of it will be a USA Pears roadshow which will be a mobile classroom. We will drive a decorated truck to hypermarkets, supermarkets, malls, really anywhere we can get space and set up to do an outdoor promotion," he said.

"Consumers can learn about varieties and health and nutrition facts and support our retail partners there to drive traffic into stores. That will be launched hopefully by mid-November and run into January. We’ll be moving around Shanghai, Beijing and if budget allows, going down to Hangzhou."

USA Pears ran a similar roadshow campaign a few years ago in Mexico, the largest U.S. export market for the fruit.

"Mexico is the top [importer] by far. Mexico dominates. They are 46% of total exports. That’s the driver of the bus, so to speak. We have a well-rounded program there. It’s a year-round program," he said.

"Mexico is a very dynamic market for us, taking a range of varieties, sizes and grades. Our focus this year will be getting retailers to move up in size, taking one to two sizes up."

Correa estimated that the U.S. comprises around 90% of the Mexican pear market. Even with such a large share, he said the U.S. still has room to grow as Mexicans look increasingly toward healthy eating.

"It’s a stable and well established but it’s still growing. Last year we were selling the highest retail prices we’ve ever sold and it was still selling strong. Markets are growing and people are looking for healthier options," he said.

Other significant export markets for U.S. pears include Canada, Russia, Brazil and Colombia.



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