A Tradition of Flavor
Flavor and quality are the keys to peach sales, which is likely why sales of the canned product are less than half their 1970s peaks, while sales of the fresh fruit have declined only slightly.
“With our location and short shipping time, we’ve been able to focus on the eating experience first and grow varieties that ripen on the tree and arrive to the consumer in just a few days,” says Matt Cornwell, account manager at Titan Farms.
Proximity to the large metropolitan markets of the Northeast comes up frequently when you ask southeastern peach producers why they can deliver fruit that is fresher and sweeter.
“We stand behind the quality and flavor of our peaches 100%,” says Michael Blume, director of sales and marketing at Keystone Fruit. “The biggest advantage of our peaches is in most situations, we can deliver next day. So, we go from harvest, to cooling, to packing, to delivering in two-to-three days, guaranteeing our customers are getting the freshest peaches possible.”
This commitment to flavor extends to decisions about which varieties to develop and plant to replace trees that are no longer productive at a commercial level.
“As older trees start to age out, we are replanting with a mixture of newer and proven varieties that we know will produce the best tasting peaches possible,” says Cornwell. “These practices keep our orchards thriving with healthy trees that produce the best fruit. Staying on the forefront of current research and production practices has allowed us to provide these premium peaches to our customers at home and many miles away. Our modern varieties provide the perfect sugar to acid ratio you expect in a southern peach while providing improved shelf life and disease resistance.”
The flavor-first approach means southeastern shippers deliver many varieties, each for a relatively short period of time.
“There are literally thousands of peach varieties,” says Will McGehee, partner of Genuine Georgia Group. “We are careful to select the varieties that can live up to our flavorful reputation. There are plenty of varieties that come with extended shelf life attributes, but you have to sacrifice flavor in order to grow them. We would rather deliver fresh peaches to a customer three or four times per week, keeping our focus on freshness and flavor, than to ship in loads of peaches that can sit on a shelf for two weeks. Why plant a variety that looks great, stays firm on a shelf for two weeks but delivers a poor eating experience? You lose the trust of your customer if that is your primary focus.”
Because peach growers plant many varieties that become ready to harvest in sequence and do not hold up well in coolers or refrigerators, no single variety is on the shelf long enough to develop a reputation with consumers.
“Most peach varieties are picked across a 12-to-18-day period in Georgia,” says McGehee. “Because this window is so small, it is very difficult to market peaches by a varietal name. But from a growing standpoint, we are proud of our ‘Prince’ series of peaches.”