Ontario consumers warm up to new winter hardy pear
Ontario’s newest fruit crop, the Cold SnapTM pear, has gone from zero to zoom in record time and is now available through five major retail grocery chains. It’s a great grassroots success story that checks all the boxes giving Canadian growers an exciting new profitable crop option, and offering consumers locally produced fruit throughout the winter.
Ontario researchers at Vineland Research Innovation Centre set out to develop a new winter hearty pear to provide a new opportunity for Ontario growers. The resulting new variety – trademarked Cold Snap pear – was licensed to Vineland Growers Cooperative, a 300-member fruit and vegetable growing and processing cooperative in Ontario’s Niagara Region. When the new pear was ready for commercial orchards, 80,000 trees were planted in Ontario and the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. After three years, the new trees began producing enough fruit to take to market. That’s where some of the most interesting challenges began.
“The hardest part of launching a new product is customer awareness and buy in,” says Matt Ecker, Sales and Business Development Manager with Vineland Growers Cooperative. “The Growing Forward 2 (GF2) funding we received through the Agricultural Adaptation Council helped us develop and deliver messaging about the new pear directly to consumers through in-store demonstrations.”
And the response has been very positive for the new variety. “Once people try our pears, they really liked them but we needed to make our brand pop to be able to change consumer behaviour about when they could buy fresh, local pears,” says Ecker.
Sales are off to a strong start and customer feedback indicates that Ontario consumers are embracing the new fruit option and enjoying the taste and texture of the Cold Snap pear.
For growers who planted the new pear, the opportunities are as refreshing as the fruit. Cold Snap pears are grown in high density plantings. As the trees mature and grow into full production, growers can expect to yield up to 20 tonne/acre of fruit – or nearly double the yield of low density orchard plantings. Higher yields bring greater efficiencies and profitability for growers. And the consumer marketing efforts will continue to build demand and bring higher returns to growers for this high value food product.
“Most consumers don’t realize they can buy Canadian pears into the winter season,” says Ecker. “We’re continuing our marketing and brand awareness push with consumers. We have marketing partners in Nova Scotia. And as we continue to grow consumer demand for our pear, we have plans to expand production with growers in British Columbia.”
Cold Snap pears will be available in five retailers in Ontario and Quebec for the 2017 season – Loblaw, Sobeys, Metro, Wal-Mart and Costco.
This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.