U.S.-based grower-shipper Stemilt says that a late spring has left many unknowns for retailers when it comes to the 2019 California cherry season, which it explains will be very different to last year.
The company says that its methodical process for evaluating cherries gives it the confidence to provide the advice: "throw out last year's playbook on California cherries".
“California’s cherry trees bloomed much later than last season and retailers need to know that, so they adjust their retail promotion plans,” said marketing director Roger Pepperl.
“While Mother Nature is keeping us waiting on the crop volume in California, we do know that any volume the industry has coming will come between May 20 and June 20.”
Stemilt says it has the longest cherry growing season of any shipper in the U.S., farming in both California and Washington.
The company relies on decades of experience from its team members and a predictive model built off current and historical field data to make the best possible predictions of harvest timing and yield.
“Quality is at the pinnacle of our cherry program,” said Pepperl. “We rely on data to inform our decisions every season and it especially guides us in years like this when timing varies.”
Stemilt uses three measurements to get a sense of cherry crop load and timing. Comparing bloom dates to historical data provides insight into harvest timing but overlapping that data with degree day modeling and soil temperatures is where the data becomes most accurate. Stemilt’s field staff visits every orchard block to first identify full bloom and then study the crop load on the tree.
“This year, we knew during bloom that the average temperatures and bloom timing would never align to harvest the bulk of the California crop as early as year’s past. We know its late and must prepare retailers for plan adjustments to promote this crop at the right moment,” said Pepperl.
A great experience for consumers and retailers alike is what Stemilt focuses on regardless of growing location. Chinchiolo Stemilt California, Stemilt’s operation based in Stockton, CA, has a six-member field staff with a combined 167 years of cherry experience. They help guide every move and gives the company confidence in everything from fruit size and quality to timing and volumes.
“That experience would be impactful with any crop, but is especially vital in cherries, where the season expectations can change in a moment,” said Pepperl.
Stemilt says the ideal loading time for California cherries will be May 20 - June 20, making Memorial Day a great opportunity for the first cherry promotions of the season.
“We are optimistic that June will be a big month for California cherries and early predictions into Washington’s crop means a nice transition coming between the two states,” said Pepperl. “Cherries are a huge dollar generator to produce departments and retailers can rely on our intelligence to make their entire season profitable.”