The queen of stone fruit is the peach. Consumers were often disappointed buying a product that likely looked good in the produce aisle, but when eaten it was often hard, tasteless and mealy. The industry studied the issue and found when a consumer was unhappy with a peach purchase, she would not buy peaches again for six weeks.
The long-standing marketing approach of picking, cooling and shipping was not delivering what consumers want.
(See related Warmerdam family embraces peach ripening program)
Enter the University of California, Davis, particularly pomologist Carlos Crisosto, who is now associate director of the Postharvest Technology Center in Davis. He was stationed at the UC Kearney Ag Center in Parlier for many years where he was part of a team of UC scientists researching what growers and shippers could do to deliver improved quality fruit.
Crisosto began researching fruit handling the early 1990s. He found that the old three-step peach processing regime was missing a step. It was lacking a pre-conditioning or ripening process after it leaves the orchard and before the fruit ever gets to the cold storage room. By 2000, packers and growers were listening. Now 80 percent of the California industry pre-conditions or ripens fruit before it is cooled down for storage and eventual shipment. The idea has now spread worldwide.
Kings County, Calif., stone fruit grower John Warmerdam says the protocol developed by Crisosto has dramatically changed fruit marketing for the better. It is giving consumers a peach that tastes good as well as looks good, says Warmerdam.
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