view current print edition




Tudor: organic is a way of life at Rainier Fruit Co.

Rainier Fruit Co., headquartered in Yakima, WA, continues to maintain a laser-sharp focus on providing its customers with the best possible eating experience.

“We are currently marketing organic apples, pears, cherries and blueberries,” said Andy Tudor, director of business development. “Our shipping season on organic pears is August to March, apples are August to June.”

Tudor pointed out that meeting this goal means that Rainier will always work to ensure that both conventional and organic fruit are of exceptional quality.

“On organic apples, almost 70 percent of our manifest is Gala, Honeycrisp and Fuji, consumers’ top choices that are also the best performing varieties for retailers,” he told The Produce News.

“Add to that our focus on other rising stars of the category such as Lady Alice and Pink Lady, and that positions Rainier as the strongest organic partner not only on apples, but pears, cherries and certainly blueberries,” he continued. “If I had to lump our volume growth of all four commodities into a percentage of growth for the coming season, 30 percent is a pretty safe number for all. Rainier is and will always be about being the best, not the biggest.”

Tudor was asked about the factors that influence consumers to make organic purchases. “We find that the organic consumer generally comes to the conclusion to purchase organic by themselves,” he replied. “Our studies indicate that there are four key triggers that move consumers to organic: birth of a child, health scare or illness such as cancer, more expendable income, or self education that comes from research on GMO and organics. As GMO becomes a bigger and bigger topic, we do work to educate both consumers and retailers that the only true certain way to avoid GMOs is organic certification. GMOs are not allowed in anything organic certified as a letter of law. More and more consumers, when faced with uncertainty about GMO, will choose the only guaranteed safest route, which is organically certified. The fact that the organic category continues to have double digit growth year over year is evident to all these drivers.”

He said Rainier’s commitment to organic farming is more than just a process. “It’s a sustainable but very difficult farming lifestyle that the Zirkle family committed to over 15 years ago,” Tudor explained. “It has become a very serious thing of generational importance to Mark Zirkle, and now is something he can pass to children. It’s not easy to grow the varieties we grow organically. If it was, everyone would be doing it. The learning curve is steep and expensive in terms of production volume.

“One of the best things that has come from our commitment to grow organic is applying those best farming practices to our conventionally-farmed fruit,” he added. “Not everything we grow can be farmed organic. But learned applications from it makes Rainier even better stewards of the land.”

This fall, Rainier plans to launch its “Wholesome to the Core” program. “Its not just a saying, it’s a lifestyle experience driven by people,” Tudor stated.

“Our call to action is ‘Eat Wholesome, Be Wholesome.’ As a primary sponsor of the Boston Marathon, we look to expand our reach to the active lifestyle community through numerous other events. Watch for ‘#RUNWITHRAINIER’ and connect with us.”