Pears may not be recession-proof, but they’re as resilient as many fruits and vegetables and more so than others, according to marketing agents.
“I’d say regardless of where the recession is, what has been understood increasingly by the retailer and the consumer is, first, pears are a profit opportunity that is fundamentally there because it’s a great product,” said Dennis James, marketing director for the Milwaukie, Ore.-based Pear Bureau Northwest.
“There’s a very loyal shopper of that product that we’ve seen in every study.”
One reason is price, which always helps during an economic downturn, James said.
“Pears are an economical purchase,” he said. “People see the value of pears, both from the joy of eating the product, but also as part of a good dollar-conscious purchase for the family.”
Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc., agreed.
“I think, to be honest, pears have been fairly recession-proof,” he said.
“I think we’ve seen an uptick in interest in pears at retail, and that has overshadowed anything negative. We’ve gotten more ad activity in the past two years, and that’s been a huge thing right there.”
Sometimes, tough times can force shippers and marketers to work with retailers to put together more compelling packs, said Mike Nicholson, domestic sales manager for Chelan, Wash.-based Chelan Fresh Marketing.
“When the economy was struggling to start to move forward, boy, there was pressure to have value-oriented products like 3-pound bags or buy-one-get-one free deals,” he said.
“They’re still watching margins and ad prices and so forth. We hear quite often their box counts in some cases are higher and dollars are lower. There’s still pressure to generate traffic and dollars at retail — that’s for sure.”
Debates continue to rage about whether the recession that began in 2008 has begun to ease. Rich Gonzalez, general manager of the Selah, Wash., office of Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos., which ships pears out of the Northwest, said he has seen some signs that it has loosened its grip a bit.
“There’s maybe a little stronger pull on the foodservice side,” he said.
“It was pretty lean for awhile. Foodservice in general has been down over the course of the last year or so. That’s probably the best barometer. With a large crop this year, you’re going to see pricing pressure all around.”
Others say they have more pressing concerns than the economic climate.
“I think we’re actually affected more by other factors, like weather,” said David Lowry, chief executive officer of Phoenix, Ore.-based Associated Fruit Co.