As part of its Chinese New Year Nianhuo (goods for the CNY holidays) Festival promotions, China’s leading fruit store chain Xianfeng Fruit recently launched a cherry tasting event in its 2,000 stores across the nation. The event was very well-received, with plates of fresh cherries emptied by customers soon after they were put on shelves. According to Xianfeng Fruit, sales of fresh fruit in its stores have continued to grow since the launch of its Chinese New Year promotions. Chilean cherries were particularly popular. The surge in demand couldn’t come at a better time for the Chilean growers and suppliers who were affected by a downturn in sales in recent weeks in the China market.
Chilean cherries are in season from November to March every year. They have become a favourite among Chinese consumers in the weeks leading up to the Chinese New Year holidays. As cherry prices surged in recent years, many consumers complained amusingly about their unaffordability and created the now-popular new term ‘cherry freedom’. China’s economic growth gave rise to an increasing demand for high-quality products, and the import volume of Chilean cherries grew with it. This season, however, has been a different story. Chile’s increased cherry volume was met with the global pandemic, and tightened inspection measures by Chinese authorities and distributors, hindering sales.
Xianfeng Fruit started its direct sourcing programme of Chilean cherries a few years ago, and has since developed a meaningful partnership with its Chilean suppliers based on mutual trust. “Chile is gifted with the best natural conditions to grow cherries, and its cherries have great quality. When the news about positive test results came out, we immediately had a lengthy communication with Chile. We requested disinfections at the origins. Cherries will go through more inspections, testings and disinfections afterward at the China Customs and at our distribution centres. We are monitoring the safety and quality of cherries very thoroughly, ” says Zhang Cunhong, Xianfeng Fruit procurement manager.
She says that the cherries the company sourced from Chile are sorted by optical sorting machines instead of by hand, which increased packing efficiency. “It not only guarantees the freshness of cherries, but also reduces human handling.”
Xianfeng Fruit has a plan in place to help improve the sales of Chilean cherries in the China market. Stringent screening and disinfection measures aside, the company has also been carrying out marketing activities online and offline. “We have put in various discount policies mechanisms in this year’s nianhuo festival. We hope they can facilitate the sales of quality Chilean cherries, and help consumers truly achieve ‘cherry freedom’,” a marketing manager at Xianfeng Fruit says.
Chile’s government bodies and private sectors are also doing everything they can to drive the recovery of Chilean cherries in the China market. In recent days, Chilean officials and ASOEX’s Cherry Committee have visited fruit wholesale markets in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Jiaxing and other cities, and have invested heavily in fruit picking automation and environment-friendly sealed packaging, to ensure safety throughout the cherry supply chain.
“Chilean cherries have great quality, and are loved by many, young and old. It is a great fruit. We hope to do everything we can to help Chilean cherry growers. We will continue to have firm control over the quality and safety of the fruit through improved communication with the growers. We hope to bring quality Chilean cherries at an affordable price to consumers and let everyone enjoy a true ‘cherry freedom’,” Zhang says.