Pears have been cultivated for 4,000 years, but only 20% of consumers buy pears. The farmers involved in this project want to increase consumption by educating consumers about the versatility, health benefits, weight-loss benefits, ripening and taste of Bartlett and D’Anjou pears. Pear demonstrations were conducted in 29 stores in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California, three times at each store, from October 2004 through February 2005. Between 100 and 250 consumers tasted pears at each demonstration, meaning the project reached between 8,700 and 21,750 consumers.
Bartlett pear slices, recipes and health benefit information were handed out at each six-hour demonstration in October, November and December 2004. Most consumers knew about the taste and how to tell if the Bartlett was ripe. However, they were surprised that pears could be used in so many recipes. Store tracking numbers showed that pear movement increased by 38% compared with the same months a year earlier.
D’Anjou slices, recipes, health benefits and ripening information were handed out at store demonstrations in December 2004 and January and February 2005. Consumer reaction was the most dramatic with D’Anjou pears: few knew about these pears; the ripening and tasting information was quite helpful. Store tracking numbers showed that D’Anjou movement increased between 10 and 80% compared with like months the previous year.
The excitement generated from the sampling and information increased pear purchases, and repeat purchases, from customers who have added pears to the family menu. Sales remained high after the demonstrations, and the warehouses and producers were encouraged by the higher sales and higher prices compared with the comparable months of the previous years.
The overall objective is to increase sales of Bartlett and D’Anjou pears without decreasing price. The idea is to increase the demand, affecting use of pears and increasing the price returned to growers. In addition, the goals of this project are to:
• Increase consumer consumption of pears through eating fresh pears or as ingredients in recipes
• Increase consumer knowledge of health benefits by handing out brochures and having farmers available to talk to consumers
• Measure the cumulative effect of in-store demonstrations
The organization in charge of sales noted that there was more fruit for sale and it sold at higher prices, which can be traced back to the in-store demonstrations.
For each of the months in which Bartlett pears were demonstrated, sales increased 38% and prices were up by 20%. The project coordinator said that the steady increase in sales and price was attributable to people already knowing about Bartlett pears and just needing a reminder about their availability.
It is hard to measure the cumulative effect on Bartlett pears. The movement in December 2004 was less than in October 2004 but more than in December 2003. Historically, October is a better month for Bartlett pears than December. Another factor may be that the introduction of D’Anjou pears in December took away sales from Bartlett pears. However, one thing is fairly certain: demonstrations create excitement in the store.
The recipes were a hit, and comments suggest they are a good selling aide. Here are some other consumer observations:
• Consumers said they need to be reminded about pears; they usually buy apples because they’re more familiar
• Loved the sweet goodness of the Bartlett pear
• Did not know pears were on the South Beach Diet
• Surprised but like the caramel dip on pears; thought caramel dip was just for apples
• Enjoyed visiting the “Pear Lady” and growers
• Some thought they did not like pears but after trying they realized how tasty pears are
• Loved having the recipes
Sales figures for D’Anjou pears, compared with the same a month a year earlier, were: December 2004, sales up 38%, prices up 32%; January 2005, sales up 80%, prices up 25%; February, sales up 10%, prices up 45%. The biggest challenge was having these pears ripe at the times of the scheduled demonstrations. When that didn’t happen, the demonstrations had to be rescheduled.
The pears were handed out with cheeses like havarti and brie along with information wheels on pear, wine and cheese. Notable was that most consumers were more interested in taste than in health, meaning that if it doesn’t taste good, health benefits are irrelevant. Consumer comments on D’Anjou pears:
• “I like these. Pear, cheese and wine, what a great idea”
• Enjoyed talking with the grower
• “I never tried these pears but they are very good”
• “Don’t like fruit but like these pears”
• “I thought these pears were not ripe because they were not yellow; now I know how to ripen pears”
• Loved the microwave recipes, especially the cranberry and cinnamon pears
• “Local pears at this time of year; I thought these were probably imported”
• Never knew there was such a thing as winter pears
As only 20% of consumers buy pears, this project shows that demonstrations can increase not only the awareness of the availability of pears but also how good they taste, which increases demand. Also, it shows that demonstrations can increase sales without lowering prices, which will hurt growers. Because Washington and Oregon account for 84% of all pears grown in the United States, increased demand and price can help ensure the sustainability of the local pear industry.
FARMER ADOPTION AND DIRECT IMPACT
The information from this grant was made available to the Rainier Fruit Co., the sales agent for about 225 growers in Washington and Oregon. Rainier has sponsored grower demonstrations, and a number of growers who have seen this report have said they want to be more involved in marketing their fruit, understanding that the demonstrations can increase demand and benefit them financially.
FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES
The findings from this project can be presented to other U.S. grocery chains, as well as to other sales agents, to show how they can increase the sale of pears. Implementing the project in states beyond the Pacific Northwest could dramatically increase pear demand.
Results of this project have been shared with Rainier Fruit Co. and the grocery chain involved in the project. They have also been provided to the Pear Bureau Northwest, which represents 1,600 growers and 73 packers and shippers in Oregon and Washington. The bureau coordinates activities designed to increase awareness and consumption of fresh U.S. pears.