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    Stone Fruit Program Highlights 'Washington Difference'

    WENATCHEE, Wash. -- To help differentiate its stone fruit from other states, Stemilt Growers here is rolling out a point-of-sale program to showcase its peaches and nectarines this summer that feature some of Washington's better-known icons, including the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Rainer, and the lush forests that blanket the Evergreen State.

    WENATCHEE, Wash. -- To help differentiate its stone fruit from other states, Stemilt Growers here is rolling out a point-of-sale program to showcase its peaches and nectarines this summer that feature some of Washington's better-known icons, including the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Rainer, and the lush forests that blanket the Evergreen State.

    Differentiation between Washington and other stone-fruit growing regions is important because the state has a unique climate that can produce tree-ripened fruit, said Roger Pepperl, Stemilt's marketing director. Unlike many larger stone fruit suppliers in other states, Stemilt doesn't precondition its peaches and nectarines.

    "It really isn't necessary in Washington because the weather gives us all the ripening we need," Pepperl said. "Plus, stone fruit that's ripened by the sun tends to taste better. It's shipped with the right pressures and is truly tree-ripe."

    Washington's winter temperatures consistently provide adequate chilling hours for stone fruits, a factor that is necessary for fruit quality to be optimum, said Pepperl. He added that ample chilling hours allow orchards to go dormant and build up the reserves they need to produce high-quality peaches and nectarines.

    The new point-of-sale program includes a half-tote bag that holds six to eight peaches or nectarines, which will allows retailers to fill and display them without reducing the visibility of the fruit to shoppers. "Consumers can see all of the fruit at first glance because the tote is small," Pepperl said. "They won't feel compelled to take the fruit out and check for bruises or bad spots because the fruit is fully visible."

    Stemilt will ship approximately 1.4 million boxes (19-pound equivalents) of peaches, nectarines, apricots, and pluots this summer, up from 2005 when Stemilt shipped 1.2 million packs.

    Volumes of Washington yellow peaches and nectarines are expected to peak from Aug. 15 to about Sept. 20. White-flesh peach and nectarine shipments should hit their stride Aug. 21 to Oct. 1. Stemilt expects to begin volume shipping of Perfection and Rival apricot varieties the first week of July.

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