After a three-year transition period, 100% of Stemilt Growers Inc.'s peaches and nectarines are certified organic, and the company is switching from the Artisan Natural label to Artisan Organic label.

The Wenatchee, Wash.-based company plans to pack about one million boxes of peaches and nectarines this summer.

The soft fruit has been marketed under the Artisan Naturals label since 2007, when it started the transition to organic.

"By using the Artisan Naturals label what we were trying to do is familiarize people with the label," said Roger Pepperl, marketing director.

Pepperl said growing the fruit organically in Washington's climate allows it to develop better, more consistent eating quality fruit. Stemilt also leaves the fruit on the tree until it is ripe.

"A lot of retailers are tired of how (shippers) were approaching it, so they're looking to us for a good-eating piece of fruit, Pepperl said."

The hot days and cold nights in Washington are great for peach development, Pepperl said.

"Peaches love those hot days," he said. "They really fare well growing here."

Pepperl said the lack of fog during the bloom season also helps keep the fruit from developing brown rot and other diseases.

"So we can grow organic with a competitive advantage," Pepperl said. "Of course it was a risk, but we've already seen it was the best thing we could have done."

In addition to peaches and nectarines, about 40% of the company's apricots are organic.

Along with the new Artisan Organic label comes new packaging and merchandising options. The company plans to ship Artisan Organic soft fruit in kraft boxes, instead of bleached boxes, with the new label.

Stemilt is offering a pop-up display bin specifically made to hold soft fruit. The bin is decorated with a photo of the product, a photo of the family farm, the company's logo and its Responsible Choice logo, along with a reference to the Fruits & Veggies - More Matters slug.

The company is also working with a nutritionist to develop 15 new soft fruit recipes that should be out by June 1.