MILWAUKIE, Ore. — Supplying retailers with research that helps them know their competitive position and provides them consumer insights are the Pear Bureau Northwest's top priorities.

With large packinghouses marketing their own brands to their retail customer base, the Pear Bureau has shifted its focus to providing retailers with the research to help analyze their business, said Kevin Moffitt, bureau president and chief executive officer.

“We take our data and we purchase data, and we feed it to the retailers in a form they can easily digest and act upon,” Moffitt said.

Data supplied include category sales information and insights on how retailers can increase sales by elevating certain varieties or display placements within the store.

“We work with best practices and programs that can maximize the pear category,” Moffitt said.

A survey this spring indicated that the most sought-after data is insight into how retailers compare with their competitors, followed by retail demand for consumer research.

The bureau can identify goals for specific retailers, such as the expected benefit of merchandising pears at the front of the produce department.

“We really show that pears are an impulse item and tell people not to waste prime real estate on an item that people are going to buy anyway, like bananas,” he said.

Moffitt said if commodities such as bananas are placed inside the department, consumers will pick a lot more impulse items on the way to find that commodity.

“We give them a good story why they should put pears near the front of the (department), and we set up goals on the size of the display, number of varieties and how often pears are displayed in the front,” he said.

Pears can be an important produce department driver, he said.

“A pear consumer buys 1.5 to two times more produce than a non-pear consumer,” Moffitt said. “If a retailer really courts that consumer, they can increase their whole department sales,” he said. “We’re trying to offer solutions to them, and they are based on data,” he said.

The bureau has five field merchandisers that work the domestic market and Canada, Moffitt said.

The bureau also has more than a dozen regional support personnel that go into supermarkets and do store checks throughout the year. Those support personnel measure the size of the pear displays in key accounts and count how many varieties are promoted,

“That’s really helping us in our analysis to the retailer,” he said.

Some of the activities that merchandisers help plan with buyers include sampling of fruit and financial advertising support.

Retailers are sometimes supported with funds for training or helping some retail personnel make the trip to key produce trade shows such as the Produce Marketing Association expo, Moffitt said.

The group’s approach to marketing to foodservice operators focuses primarily on schools. About 95% of pears are sold through retail channels, but Moffitt said the bureau is working with school foodservice directors and chefs to put more pears on menus.

The group works with a company called the Cool School Cafe, which provides data and incentives on districts buying the most pears. The bureau also works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on commodity purchases for schools and communicates with schools through mailings to school foodservice directors.

The bureau helped purchase a salad bar for a San Diego school in conjunction with the United Fresh expo there earlier this year.

Moffitt said the bureau tracks menu mentions of pears, and he said the use of pears is increasing.

“Desserts have always been popular, but we are seeing more salads now, which is the fastest-growing area of foodservice,” he said.

Looking to the future, Moffitt said he would like to see more use of fresh-cut pears in foodservice settings.

Other foodservice efforts include public relations efforts with the Culinary Institute of America.

One of the challenges in getting more pears on menus is finding reliable suppliers of conditioned pears for restaurant operators, Moffitt said.

“Most of the Sysco-type operations aren’t set up to do a half box of pears to a restaurant in San Francisco or a full box that is ripe,” he said.