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Forgotten Fruit


Supermarkets and suppliers see strong growth potential for pears.

From Comice to Concorde, and Seckel to Tosca, there’s a host of pear varieties beyond Bartlett and Bosc that consumers would undoubtedly find equally delicious if invited to bite.

“Apples are such a strong category that pears can become a secondary thought for the consumer,” observes Ed Osowski, director of produce for South Bend, Ind.-based Martin’s Supermarkets.

The savvy supermarket chain is trying to change that with a merchandising and promotional strategy designed to grow the category. Martin’s and some of the nation’s leading pear suppliers are taking a multipronged approach to make pears top of mind for consumers — and you can, too.

Start Them Young

Cultivating young fans of sweet and juicy pears will ultimately build sales in the category. With that in mind, Martin’s is making pears a focal point in its Kids Club. Children with a Martin’s Healthy Kids Club card get a free piece of fruit when they visit the store. This fall, that piece of fruit will be a pear.

“It’ll be a variety pear that we’re sure will be sweet,” says Osowski. “They’ll get one free, and our hope is that on return trips, they’ll encourage their parents to buy more.”

Stemilt Growers, of Wenatchee, Wash., has been going after the kid market for apples and pears with gusto. The company is expanding its successful Lil Snappers kid-size fruit brand with more pear offerings this year.

“The big thing we’ve spent time developing in our off-season is to incorporate more kid-friendly items,” says Roger Pepperl, Stemilt marketing director. “We now offer four pear varieties in our Lil Snappers line. We started with Bartletts and d’Anjous, and now we’ve added red and Bosc pears.

“Lil Snapper pears come in small sizes that eat really well,” Pepperl continues. “The whole idea is to develop a market with kids. It helps us now, and it will help us later.”

The Pear Bureau Northwest, in Milwaukie, Ore., also believes children are the future for pears. Earlier this year, the bureau launched “Pear World,” an online destination for elementary school-age children. “We’re seeing that people keep visiting the site, and those who come back are spending more time there,” reports Cristie Mather, the bureau’s director of communications.

The site includes kid-friendly recipes for easy-to-prepare dishes such as Student’s Pear Salsa. “It’s a fruit salsa for dipping with graham crackers,” explains Mather. “Kids love to dip, and the recipe is so simple to prepare that kids can help make it.”

The bureau is also partnering with the popular PBS Kids Sprout television program “LazyTown” to create pear-focused POS encouraging healthy eating in time for back-to-school. The grant-funded program allows the Pear Bureau to use the likeness of Sportacus and Stephanie, the stars of the show, in promotional materials bearing the tagline “Good Things Come in Pears.”

Ripe and Ready

“While the pear category is flat overall, we’ve just flourished with pears in the last eight years,” Pepperl says, attributing part of Stemilt’s success in the category to the company’s RipeRite ripening program.

“We have ripening rooms where we ripen fruit for retailers, and that’s really helped them to achieve better and more consistent sales,” Pepperl notes. “We see a 15 percent to 20 percent uptick in sales when retailers are in a pearripening program.”

Martin’s is enticing its customers to purchase pears by offering a greater amount of ripe fruit. “Another way we’re looking to grow the pear category is by focusing on varieties we can ripen,” Osowski says. Martin’s No. 1 seller in the pear category is the Bartlett, but Red Anjou, Bosc and Comice pears are holding their own.

Assorted Gems

In addition to offering high-quality, ripe, flavorful pears, Osowski believes that showcasing the variety of pears available is an important way to draw consumers to the category. “You’ve got to tell the story about the many varieties of pears,” he urges. “Price point is important, but it’s just as important for the consumer to understand what they’re buying.”

At Martin’s, creative signage shares the story. The grocer uses a pear-and-wine-pairing chart, as well as a pear, cheese and wine chart to offer serving suggestions in the produce department. The wine and cheese are cross-merchandised with the pears so shoppers can easily pick up all three in one stop.

Beyond selection, regular pear promotions can give sales a bump says Osowski who consistently promotes pear varieties both individually and then as a group, offering five varieties at the same price point. “Give shoppers everything they want in one place,” he encourages.

A proponent of the seasonal in-store pear festival, Pepperl also believes that variety sells. Stemilt has created display bins to help retailers looking to host a vibrant pear festival. The company recently developed a sleeve for display bins that gives them the look of a giant green pear. Intended for 3-, 4- or 5-pound value packs of pears the dramatic display is sure to entice shoppers.

“Apples are such a strong category that pears can become a secondary thought for the consumer.”
–Ed Osowski, Martin’s Supermarkets

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