Courtesy New York Apple CommissionHoneycrisp apples are a strong draw for New York City retailers.The number of apple varieties on offer to retail buyers continues to grow each year, but produce departments aren’t getting any bigger.
That forces risk taking and creative marketing by suppliers.
“Within the entire produce department in a retail store, they’ve greatly expanded the number of (stock-keeping units), and apples have done well to hold the space they have,” said Keith Horder, director of business development at L&M Cos., Union Gap, Wash.
“That will influence the future because now I see a lot of retailers who can’t handle the varieties we have in Washington and the East.
“Newer club varieties are being accepted less now than in the past because of the limited space. At some point certain varieties will just lose it.”
If so, the apple market is a kind of high-stakes game of musical chairs. Who will have a seat when the song stops?
Pink Lady preference
Alan Taylor, marketing director at Pink Lady America LLC, Wenatchee, Wash., says his brand’s seat is safe.
“A number of apples have come up against Pink Lady and so far Honeycrisp has been the only competition pricewise,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t stay on the market for long, then the high-priced market is us. Look at the flavor profile. This is a sweet-tart apple. How many of those do you really need? I don’t see anything coming down the pike that’s going to change that.”
From a retail point of view, the choice for apples is bigger than just club versus traditional varieties.
“We have seen the biggest growth in the ready-to-eat Crunch Pak variety,” said Maria Brous, communications director at Publix Super Markets Inc., Lakeland, Fla. “Honeycrisp are also doing well.”
“Some of the choices do have the same taste-flavor profile,” Brous said of the newer varieties.
On the whole though, more options have brought welcome diversity, she said.
Honeycrisp does continue to stand out among the varieties.
“A lot of retailers are reporting that Honeycrisp is 20% of sales early in the season,” Bob Mast, vice president of marketing at Wenatchee, Wash.-based Columbia Marketing International Corp., said in December.
Volume on Honeycrisp will only grow over time, Mast said.
“It’s a highly planted variety in the past couple years and more tonnage is coming on,” he said. “Consumers are becoming more aware of it and are willing to spend their hard-earned money. Retailers who initially had a conservative approached toward mid- to high-$2 prices have increased their display space.”