What are some ideas for marketing cherries?
Although organic production is more costly than conventional production, the price premium for organic cherries remains significant despite fluctuations. However, studies reveal that the consumer who will pay up to 50% more for certified organic cherries also expects those cherries to be especially large and sweet (Kirby and Granatstein, 2010). Consequently, the aspiring organic cherry producer will have to pay very close attention to quality in every aspect of production if he or she expects to earn the organic premium.
Most organic cherries are produced in the West, and mid- to large-scale producers often use conventional brokers to get their fruit to market. Many such packer/brokers are now experienced in marketing organic fruit. Stemilt is one example of a large packer/broker with long-time experience serving organic growers. Rainier Fruit Company is another. A simple Web search for organic cherry brokers will reveal more.
Small-scale growers will likely choose to forego fruit brokers and market their product directly at farm stands and farmers markets. Direct sales to grocers are generally less profitable since the grower is competing with larger growers (represented by brokers), who have economies of scale on their side. However, “locally grown” is currently a powerful marketing tool, so local grocers may well pay a good price for a local product, especially if that product is certified organic.
The Cherry Marketing Institute focuses on serving tart cherry growers, mostly in the Midwest. In addition to helping growers directly, the Institute is spearheading a major effort to inform the public about the newly discovered health benefits of tart cherries.
Outside of major production areas, it will probably be difficult to find brokers with experience in the organic fruit market.
If you plan to retail your cherries yourself, remember that they are considered a “soft fruit” for a good reason. Post-harvest cooling is very important, as is safe and gentle handling.
ATTRA has produced a series of 13 marketing tipsheets, each of which describes a particular marketing channel and notes some of the considerations associated with that approach to marketing. Each tip sheet also provides additional resources about that marketing channel.
Also be sure to check out the ATTRA publication Cherries: Organic Production. This publication focuses on organic pest and disease control and other topics relevant to organic production of both tart and sweet cherries. It introduces the Canadian bush cherry and discusses climatic considerations for cherry production. Information on marketing is included, as are further resources and sources of trees and pest-control materials.
Kirby, Elizabeth and David Granatstein. 2010. Status of Organic Tree Fruit in Washington State. Washington State University Extension. EM046E.
Note: Mention of specific companies or products is for educational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by ATTRA, NCAT, or USDA.