Columbia gains momentum with varieties

12/30/2011 11:28:00 AM
Mike Hornick

Courtesy Columbia Marketing InternationalWenatchee, Wash.-based Columbia Marketing International markets its Ambrosia variety with display bins. (CORRECTED Jan. 4) It’s often said that production of newer apple varieties takes five or six years to build momentum.

The Ambrosia variety from Columbia Marketing International Corp. is an example.

As Ambrosia enters its fifth season on the market, production has jumped about 30% over last year.

“It’s our largest crop on Ambrosias,” said Bob Mast, vice president of marketing at Wenatchee, Wash.-based CMI.

“We’re promoting over 500,000 cartons, and our coverage has expanded nationwide this year,” he said.

Ambrosia, an apple on the sweet side of the taste scale, is available into April.

CMI, which has exclusive rights to grow and market Ambrosia in the U.S, began with its everyday customer base and grew from there.

Most major retailers now carry it, Mast said.

Kiku and Kanzi varieties

Two other varieties, Kiku and Kanzi, are available in limited quantities. CMI planned to start shipping Kiku, a sweet variety from Italy, around Jan. 1. Kanzi will follow in mid-February and run for about a month.

“We market the Kanzi as an intensely flavored apple,” Mast said. “It’s actually a little shocking to the palate when you first bite into it.

“As you continue to eat, your taste buds adapt. It starts out tart and evolves into a sweetness.”

It’s only the second year for CMI to market Kanzi. The fruit comes from young trees imported from Europe that emerged from a 30-day quarantine on a boat.

“It’s the second largest variety planted in Europe now behind Pink Lady,” Mast said. “Now we’re starting to propagate it in the U.S.”

Sublicensee Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa., is also growing and market Kiku, he said.

“We also sublicensed Applewood Orchards out of Deerfield, Mich., for both Kiku and Kanzi,” Mast said.

CMI ships the varieties with double-sided, 7-by-11-inch point of sale cards to inform produce managers and consumers.

Each card has a quick-response code that takes shoppers to a video of growers during harvest, talking about the apples.

“It builds the romance story of the variety for the consumer,” Mast said.

CORRECTION: Ambrosia volume is over 500,000 cartons. An incorrect number appeared in the original story.



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