I was seven years old when I tasted my first real cherry. Not one of the bright red, extra sweet maraschino cherries you get in a Shirley Temple or on top of your ice cream sundae—an actual cherry.
I still remember it fondly to this day. It was life-altering.
From the first bite—a flavor explosion of juice—there was a perfect combination of sweet and tart that rocked my young tastebuds. From then on, I’ve been hooked, eagerly awaiting the moment each summer when I would walk into the produce department of my local grocery store, greeted by seas of crimson and garnet.
Although I border on poetic when discussing my beloved cherries, I think many other consumers feel the same way. In my mind, one of the truly special things about the bite-sized fruit is its ability to conjure up memories and nostalgia. Eating them is an experience, not just a moment in time.
You can’t just bite into a cherry, chew it, swallow, and be done. Nay, nay! It requires skill. One must use finesse to carefully maneuver around the pit, getting every tasty morsel of flesh without swallowing the hard shell. Then, there are the juices that stain your mouth and fingers—a must-have summer accessory—allowing you to stick your tongue out at friends and family so they can see the seasonal badge of honor you’ve earned by eating these delicious treats.
It’s all of these things, on top of the knockout flavors, that keep shoppers counting down the days until cherry season. Likewise, it is consumer anticipation that inspires companies like Pacific Trellis Fruit and its brand Dulcinea Farms® to keep evolving their programs, offering the chance to enjoy cherries year-round.
“Five years ago, Pacific Trellis wasn’t in the cherry business,” Dan Carapella Jr., Senior Sales Executive and Cherry Category Manager, starts off by telling me. “Now, we are the third-largest combined cherry importer, with strong grower and retailer partners standing alongside us.”
Currently, Pacific Trellis imports its cherries from Argentina and Chile from November to March. This gives shoppers the opportunity to take what was once just a summertime experience into the fall and winter seasons, while retailers gain another tool to add to their holiday merchandising arsenal. The unmistakable flavors and scents of cherries create optimal opportunities for cross-promotions in the produce aisles as consumers search for delicious ways to add flair to their celebratory meals. I mean, who can resist a warm cherry pie or a rich cherry glaze on a decadent holiday ham?
However, the grower isn’t just revealing new opportunities for itself and its retail partners, it will also be sharing in the success with its Dulcinea Farms brand. With that being said, January 2022 will be the first time Dulcinea-branded cherries will be offered to buyers.
Packed in standard 11 lb cartons and 1 lb clamshells, as well as 2 lb clamshells that will be offered for specialized programs, the inaugural season will include Bing, Lapins, Kordia, Regina, and Sweetheart varieties. Retailers will be able to display these gems on their shelves, capturing the attention not only of cherry lovers across the board, but fans of the popular Dulcinea brand. In combining the cherished category with a well-loved name, it seems to be a recipe for a surefire win.
“Dulcinea is a household name widely recognized for its quality fruit and commitment to freshness,” Dan says, passionately explaining why this new venture is sure to be a hit. “When consumers see that name, they know they can trust our cherries to be flavorful.”
“Five years ago, Pacific Trellis wasn’t in the cherry business. Now, we are the third-largest combined cherry importer, with strong grower and retailer partners standing alongside us.”
Dan Carapella Jr., Senior Sales Executive and Cherry Category Manager, Pacific Trellis Fruit
But the brand attached to these cherries isn’t the only special thing about them. Like Pacific Trellis’ lineup, Dulcinea will also be importing the fruit from regions in Chile and Argentina, providing an increased window of opportunity to rack up category sales.
“The most unique aspect of our Dulcinea cherry program is our partnership with Extraberries, based out of Argentina,” continues Dan. “Joining forces has allowed us to offer multiple varieties in our first year, extend the cherry season into March, and have import operations on both coasts.”
On top of this pivotal partnership, Dulcinea is introducing vital measures to guarantee that retailers, and therefore shoppers, are able to get their hands on these cherries to stay in line with the pace of demand. With the persistence of shipping and transportation issues across the industry, only magnified by the import process, the company is taking the bull by the horns, revealing a new strategy to overcome these hurdles.
“Inbound logistics challenges remain one of the largest issues for fresh produce buyers and suppliers,” Dan prefaces. “To combat this, we are planning to kick off our Packed in the USA program. Through the program, Pacific Trellis will be able to grade and package cherries in the U.S., thereby reducing the time it takes to get to produce departments and into consumers’ carts.”
While this is just the start of Dulcinea’s cherry program, the brand is already looking ahead with Pacific Trellis, plotting out the next moves in their mission to bring more cherries to the masses. Although I’m not privy to the exact details, the brand will be growing.
“Cherries are one of the few truly seasonal items in the produce section. Every year, we see an increase in category demand, and we don’t expect that to slow down anytime soon. For Pacific Trellis, the Dulcinea cherries category will be a continued area of high focus as we move into the future,” Dan tips me off.
For now, Pacific Trellis is happy to report that high-quality cherries will be produced this year, and with them come new chances for growth.
“This season, we are anticipating a healthy crop and normal growing conditions,” Dan explains. “In addition, we are expecting the Chilean crop to grow almost 15 percent, creating new opportunities for expansion and for consumers to enjoy our high-quality lineup.”
What will that mean for cherry lovers like me and so many others impatiently anticipating any and all category developments? I guess we will have to wait to find out.
Luckily, we have Dulcinea’s cherries to keep us company through the winter months, melding the essence of joy from recently passed hot summer months with the happiness that comes from the warmth of family and friends during the Northern Hemisphere’s chilly holiday season.
So, just try and resist that warm cherry pie. Or, rather, give in. Its buttery sweet scent is whispering to me from the kitchen—and when cherries call, I come running, ready to make more mouthwatering memories.