Robust production gets off to a fast-paced start

12/30/2011 11:10:00 AM
Mike Hornick

The association reported U.S. fresh apple holdings Dec. 1 were up 3% over the year before, from 91.3 million to 94.4 million bushels.

Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, others

The popular Honeycrisp variety, which began shipping in the fall, could have more staying power this year.

“We plan to have supplies into April this season, a full month longer than last year,” said Suzanne Wolter, marketing director for Selah, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit Co. “Unless of course consumer demand pulls the crop through faster than anticipated.”

Rainier Fruit is the largest North American grower of conventional and organic Honeycrisp, she said.

Varieties in smaller supply this year, Wolter said, include golden delicious and fuji, leftover from last winter because of weather issues; and red delicious, braeburn, jonagold and Cameo, because of acreage reductions.

“Honeycrisp and others are up, supporting our position that we all need to refresh our apple category promotional strategy,” she said.

As a result, Wolter also predicts that retailers will shift from one-variety to multivariety ads and promotions, combining traditional and newer apples.

Pink Lady was the last variety to come off the trees, said Alan Taylor, marketing director for Pink Lady America LLC, Wenatchee.

“When the apple doesn’t start harvesting until late October or early November, it becomes a challenge,” Taylor said. “It was a nerve-wracking start for the industry, at least two weeks late.”

The crop is down 7% to 2.7 million boxes from 2.9 million a year ago, Taylor said. Despite the late harvest, early Pink Lady shipments exceeded targets.

Smaller fruit

The late harvest in Washington — a result of labor shortages and cold weather — will mean smaller fruit.

“Supplies have been somewhat tight, especially in the primary retail sizes,” said Eric Patrick, Yakima, Wash.-based marketing director for Grant J. Hunt Co., Oakland, Calif.

“It tended to run about a size smaller. On some varieties there will be challenges with that, but as a retailer you can be flexible about it. Retailers might just size down from 88 to 100 or 100 to 113. We’re looking at some additional bagged opportunities in January and February because of size.”

Even if it’s minimally smaller fruit, Patrick expected the pace of shipments out of Washington to hold or quicken in January.



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