New apples emerge as trending varieties

For most growers, their apple lineup is combination of old favorites and new varieties.

Stemilt Growers LLC in Wenatchee, WA, produces classics like Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith as well as newer specialties like Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and its own signature Pinata and SweeTango. In addition, after introducing 65,000 cartons in a trial last year, it is planning a larger rollout of its latest variety, Rave, which is part Honeycrisp and MonArk (a varietal from Arkansas).

Roger Pepperl, marketing director, describes the Rave as juicy and refreshing, and he expects a good deal of interest. The cultivar ripens in early August, about two to three weeks earlier than any other apple.

“Retailers are always looking for the first thing of the season,” Pepperl explains, adding that Stemilt plans to begin licensing Rave to other growers in the next four to five years.

Sally Symms, vice president of sales and marketing for Symms Fruit Ranch Inc. in Caldwell, ID, says her company, too, is looking for opportunities in the early market. “We’re planting early season Galas,” she says. “We’re trying to capture a different time of the market.”

Similarly, Rice Fruit Company in Gardners, PA, is growing its branded Kiku apple. Brenda Briggs, vice president of sales and marketing, describes the Kiku as sweet, firm, and juicy.

Although some in the industry say the proliferation of trademarked or club varieties has created an uneven playing field in the marketplace, Pepperl believes these varieties are good for both the industry and consumers.

“I think they’re a great thing,” he says. “How could you not like apples that taste better? It’s a win for the consumers.”

“There will be winners and losers, but the new varieties have brought good tasting apples to market,” says Briggs.

Nick Mascari, vice president of sales for All Fresh GPS LLC in Comstock, MI, believes new varieties are good for the industry, as they build and bring excitement with new product rollouts. Bottom line, he notes, is everyone is looking for the next Honeycrisp.

In addition to flavor attracting consumers, texture, health properties, and novelty can influence sales as well. In this regard, years of university research have helped.

Susan K. Brown, professor of agriculture and life sciences at Cornell University, explains: “We’re seeing an increased demand for ‘difference’—nutritious and crisp. Crisp seems to be the characteristic people want.”

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.

Annemarie Mannion is a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune and freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She writes for a variety of business publications and websites.