(June 13) WENATCHEE, Wash. — A group of Washington apple shippers that represent just under half of the state’s apple volume say they plan to continue the category management work the Washington Apple Commission performed for the industry.

“We are exclusively continuing the category management activities that the commission left behind,” said Keith Mathews, general manager of the Selah, Wash., office of L&M Cos., Raleigh, N.C.

The seven shippers have formed an unnamed group that is working closely with The Perishables Group Inc., Carpentersville, Ill., which supplied the category management information to the commission.

“Anyone in the state can access the historic data,” said Mike Hambleton, director of marketing for Columbia Marketing International Corp., Wenatchee.

“But we’re the ones that will capture that data (that’s) moving and utilize it with retailers.”

The shippers plan to take the category management information used in shipper-retailer partnerships to the next level, Hambleton said.

The proprietary information will be available only for the retailers involved with the specific shippers, he said. Hambleton declined to discuss the possibility of other shippers joining the group. He said that would be up to the committee of seven that control the group.Those other shippers are:

  • Oneonta Trading Corp., Wenatchee

  • Trout-Blue Chelan Inc., Chelan

  • Rainier Fruit Co., Selah

  • Sage Marketing LLC, Yakima

  • Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee.

The category management information also will cover cherries and pears, Hambleton said.

Roger Pepperl, Stemilt’s marketing director, said the closed membership group will allow shippers to buy the category management data at a discount.

“We need that information,” he said. “It’s important because you need to work with your individual retail partners and tell them where their performance levels are compared to other people (retailers) in their region.”

Pepperl said Stemilt has performed its own category management functions. The company recently hired former commission staffer Amy Smith to conduct category analysis functions, he said.

Sage Marketing announced June 1 it had hired three of the commission’s regional marketers, two of whom worked with the commission’s category management programs.

The new staffers will work for the individual shippers, implementing the category management data, said Chuck Sinks, Sage Marketing’s president of sales and marketing.