PORTLAND — The Processed Pear Committee has approved a $660,000 promotions budget for the 2014 Pacific Northwest canned pear crop.
The committee acted May 28 during the first day of The Pear Bureau Northwest’s annual meeting in Portland. Growers on the committee asked processors on the committee if they wanted to keep promotions going, given the few processors left, said B.J. Thurlby, committee administrator.
The answer was yes but processors asked for the Pacific Northwest Canned Pear Service to hold marketing committee meetings in the spring and fall to adjust promotion strategies after the size and condition of the fall crop is known, Thurlby said. He is also administrator of the PNCPS and president of the Washington State Fruit Commission.
Whether canned pear promotions should be continued came up at a May 21 meeting of the commission in Richland, Wash.
Peter Verbrugge, co-owner of Valley Fruit in Yakima and chairman of the PNCPS board, asked to evaluate the need, noting there are only three pear canneries in the Northwest, all in Washington, plus a non-canning company in California, Pacific Coast Processors, that sells PNW pears.
Most canned pears are Yakima Bartlett sold to the food service industry for use in schools, prisons, restaurants, hospitals and other institutions. Fewer go to grocery stores since shoppers are turning from canned pears to fresh pears.
One of the three Washington canneries, Del Monte, sells only a small amount to food service so perhaps the others should be paying for promotions more than Del Monte, Verbrugge said.
Del Monte has a plant in Yakima. Seneca Foods has a plant in Sunnyside and Northwest Packing (The Neil Jones Food Co.) is in Vancouver.
But Steve Carlson, a Lower Yakima Valley grower and head of Del Monte’s Yakima field operations, said promotion is needed whether product goes to food service or retail.
“You are moving product, which is key to our industry,” he said.
Thurlby agreed promotions help keep the industry alive and noted the PNCPS board agreed May 1 that promotions should continue. A new Washington State University study shows for every $1 canned pear growers put into promotions, they get $1.72 back in sales, he said.
“Canned pears have been out there a long time and need attention because it’s one of those items that could slip out of the consciousness of the food service industry in a hurry because they sell thousands of units of food,” Thurlby said.
“We need to keep them focused on using pears and we do it by driving incentive of the end users like hospitals,” he said.
The PNCPS provides schools, restaurants and other institutions with recipes and ideas for using canned pears to drive sales and promotes canned pears at 15 trade shows attended by school districts, Thurlby said.
Typically, the USDA buys 12 percent of PNW canned pears for school lunches.
Washington and Oregon produce 85 percent of the nation’s pears, California the rest. There were more than 30 processors or canneries in Washington and Oregon in the 1960s, Thurlby said.
Northwest Bartlett production has averaged 228,000 tons per year over the past decade with the amount canned dropping from 144,718 tons in 2004 to 114,741 tons in 2013 while fresh tonnage has increased, according to the Washington-Oregon Canning Pear Association.
The fresh market pays more, but canners increased their pay to $300 per ton for top grade Barlett in 2014 to stay competitive.
Growers in Washington and Oregon voted 363-20 in 2011 to continue a federal marketing order under which the Processed Pear Committee collects $5.50 per ton from growers that goes to the PNCPS for promotions.