Smaller apples have stepped up to the spotlight, with higher demand in fresh-cut applications, foodservice and retail.
“The healthy eating initiative has created more demand for smaller fruit through the demand for slicing apples,” said Kevin Steiner, marketing director and category manager for Sage Fruit Co. LLC, Yakima, Wash.
Steiner said galas and granny smiths have especially seen growth in the demand for smaller fruit for the slicing market.
In addition, he said he has seen an increase in demand for smaller apples in foodservice segments, particularly schools.
“The demand for smaller apples has increased as more emphasis is placed on apples at school,” Steiner said.
Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc., said the company’s Lil Snappers label has seen great success at retail.
Stemilt Growers and Sunkist Growers jointly market small citrus, apples and pears in a child-friendly pack under the Lil Snappers brand, meeting a need for parents who want to offer a smaller fruit option to kids.
“So many parents write to us to say how relieved they are to finally see small apples, but the reality is that small apples have been in the store forever, just not marketed to them in the past,” Pepperl said.
He said that before the child-focused branded packaging, it was easier for parents to miss the opportunity to buy smaller fruit for their children.
Despite the misconception of being a new item, the brand has connected with consumers and the smaller fruit is now much more in demand, Pepperl said.
“It’s always a fun comment to get because we know how untrue it really is, but perception is the reality,” he said.
This higher demand for smaller apples created record f.o.b. prices last year, Steiner said.
“Because Michigan and New York had much smaller crops last year, we saw demand for small apples extremely high. The floor has been raised on certain varieties,” he said.
This demand could eventually cause some supply issues because most orchards are being replanted with larger fruit in mind.
“The percentage of small fruit could go down, because from a grower standpoint they want to plant an orchard that will have large fruit to try and get as much return as possible,” Steiner said.