Market Outlook

Although the numbers are still small, the push towards expanding trade to the U.S. can be seen in the figures from the past two seasons.

the year before, the ultimate goal is to reach 25%. “Time will tell, but I think it could be a tremendous challenge,” he says. At last season’s levels, 25% of the exports would be equivalent to nearly 18 million boxes, or around 90,000 tons. But given the expect- ed increases in Chile’s production, 25% of total exports could soon be a much higher figure. In Immenhausen’s view, for Chil- ean cherries to significantly expand their presence in the U.S. market, retailers will need to start promot- ing with equal velocity in February as they traditionally do in January. That would help to drive sales at a time when arrival volumes are often at their heaviest. “We’re telling re- tailers that they need to extend their season, as the Chilean cherry deal has changed and evolved. Maybe as soon as the 2022-23 season, February will be as big as January and March arrivals will continue to grow. We could start to see supplies as late as April going forward.” He adds that promotions in Feb- ruary would tie in with an important holiday for which cherries seem to fit perfectly: Valentine’s Day. Rabobank analyst Gonzalo Salinas says that cherries could eventually become a new tradition for the holiday, in addition to more traditional items like strawberries and chocolate, as Chilean exports increase their focus

on the market over the coming years. Alcaíno also says that Valentine’s Day could become an important sales period, and opens up options to sell cherries in heart-shaped clamshell packaging. February is also National Cherry Month, giving retailers ample pro- motional opportunities. Alcaíno adds that Christmas and New Year’s Eve - although earlier in the season when volumes are lower - could also be- come key consumption periods, and even Thanksgiving with air-freight- ed cherries. Another of the bank’s analysts, David Magana, points out that Chile will likely continue to focus heavily on China in the run-up to the major sales period of the Chinese New Year to make the most of the higher prices, then putting more attention on other markets like the U.S. around the second half of the season. Marketing a fruit in the winter that many U.S. consumers have only ever eaten in the summer will not be easy, Immenhausen points out. But he says there is indeed interest from retailers in having larger volumes of the fruit, which is an attractive prod- uct in the produce department. Soler says that the Cherry Com- mittee is working hard to build up demand. Its campaign during the 2022-23 season encourages con- sumers to “Cherish Every Moment” with Chilean cherries. “The cam-

paign includes point-of-sale mate- rials, social media posts and a radio campaign in selected U.S. cities,” she says. “And for the first time, we are designing and producing cherry bins for retailers.” Immenhausen says that prices will need to moderate for more retailers to get behind promoting the fruit for longer periods. “I do anticipate that we’re still going to have profitable returns for the growers, but the days of high pricing on the late deal are probably finished. We have to make it retail-attractive,” he says. Improving the logistics for Chilean cherries being sent to the U.S. should also be looked at, he suggests. This could be done by creating a dedi- cated shipping service like those of the Cherry Express, the vessels that exclusively ship cherries and other summer fruit to China with a shorter transit time. In addition, he says mar- keting efforts are essential, and in that regard, he says the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, a U.S.-based promotional organization, should be given greater funding to help drive demand. If Chile manages to create the demand and continue to supply “China-quality” fruit, exporters can surely expect a rosy alternative market for themselves well into the future. All in all, the U.S. market looks like it will be receiving much higher volumes of Chilean cherries in the years to come.

Vision Magazine 31

December 2022

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