With all the apple varieties available to choose from, retail sales indicate consumers seem to enjoy sweet and sweet-tart apples.
“The fuji is popular, and it’s just a sweet apple with not much acid, but the Honeycrisp or the Piñata have high acid, which people really like as well,” said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc.
Kevin Steiner, marketing director and category manager for Sage Fruit Co. LLC, Yakima, Wash., agrees that sweet and tart apples are popular.
“It’s interesting to see kind of a mix,” he said.
Still, it’s clear consumers are slowly moving toward newer options.
“The biggest transition for consumers is the transition toward new varietals, moving away from the varieties they may have grown up with,” Steiner said.
“I think some of the sweeter apples are becoming more popular. The Kiku is one we handle and it’s probably the sweetest apple you can get right now,” said Tom Curtis, president of All Fresh GPS, Comstock, Mich.
Texture is also important.
“The texture, or crunch, is also a big part of the whole apple experience,” Pepperl said.
Honeycrisp apples, which have a particularly crunchy texture, are popular because consumers like the flavor, as well as the way it cracks when bitten into.
“It’s part of the sensory experience of eating an apple, and I think a lot of new apples that come out in the next few years will have that attribute,” Pepperl said.
Maintaining texture can prove to be difficult, but SmartFresh and other ethylene blockers that retard the ripening process, have had a positive effect on maintaining crispness while apples are in storage, Pepperl said.
Curtis says regional trends can take priority over general trends. For example, some regional favorites aren’t as crisp as some of the new national favorites.
“There are a few apple varieties that are a little softer that are popular, but those are more regional, and when you start getting out a little farther, people want a good, hard piece of fruit that will eat well and last in the fridge,” he said.
Most suppliers agree that one of the most important aspects of finding new trendy varieties is to offer something unique.
“Consumers want something that is totally different. That’s what makes these varieties stand out,” said Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for Rainier Fruit Co., Selah, Wash.
Having a consistent supply of these new apple varieties can be a challenge and it’s difficult to manage the growth of new categories with older standards and favorites.
Wolter thinks communication with retailers is one secret to successful apple promotions.
“Communication from retailers back to us as far as what’s doing well for them is critical, because it’s hard for growers to maintain the balance of which varieties are popular at the moment, and it’s a big investment to rip out trees and replant those acres,” she said.