A major Washington fruit shipper is severing ties with its longtime marketing partner and forming its own marketing division.

Prescott, Wash.-based Broetje Orchards plans to begin selling its own apples and cherries on Aug. 17, said Jim Hazen, the company’s business manager.

Since 2000, Broetje Orchards’ apples have been marketed by the Selah, Wash., office of L&M Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C. Other marketers sold its cherries, Hazen said.

The decision to terminate the relationship between Broetje and L&M was mutual, said Lee Anne Oxford, L&M’s marketing director.

“We’ve had difficulty working with Broetje over the years, and this year it came to the point where we couldn’t agree on various issues,” she said. “We had some significant differences in the way we thought business should be conducted.”

Oxford said the break would not significantly affect L&M, and that the company would have enough apples this season to meet customer needs. But she said the company might not ship as many apples.

“We have some new opportunities we’re excited about, and we believe our other growers are excited, too,” she said. “We will have plenty of fruit going forward.”

Before linking with L&M and other marketers, Broetje Orchards had its own sales desk, Hazen said.

In addition to marketing its own fruit, Broetje plan to seek grower-shipper partners to join the new division, FirstFruits Marketing of Washington. Among those shippers, Broetje hopes to find a supplier of pears, which it does not grow, Hazen said.

FirstFruits Marketing will have offices in a Yakima Valley location yet to be announced, Hazen said.
Broetje packs more than five million boxes of fresh apples per year under its FirstFruits of Washington brand. The new marketing company expects to sell 7 million to 10 million boxes, Hazen said.

In a news release, owner Ralph Broetje, said the company’s customers said they preferred to deal directly with the shipper.

Marketing its own fruit also will help Broetje Orchards deliver its message of social responsibility and philanthropy, Broetje said.

Hazen said, the company will be better able to highlight its food safety and sustainability programs and to work with companies who share its values.

The company’s Vista Hermosa Foundation funds projects to assist underserved communities in the U.S. and abroad with food production, health care, education and housing.

Broetje breaks with L&M, forms marketing division