With so many apple varieties on the market, some suppliers are convinced older varieties could start to dry up in today’s competitive marketplace.
Growers agree galas are high in popularity right now.
“Galas are the bread and butter of our apple industry,” said Atomic Torosian, co-owner of Crown Jewels Produce LLC, Fresno, Calif. “It’s just the way it is right now, and I think that trend is going to continue.”
“We are seeing galas as the No. 1 apple in terms of dollar sales, contributing over 27% of the apple category,” said Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash. Those statistics reflect last year’s apple season.
Another favorite is the Honeycrisp variety.
“There are tons of new varieties, but the Honeycrisp seems to continue to perform. People continue to ask for them, so they’re certainly the shining star,” said Fred Hess, president of Hess Bros. Fruit Co., Leona, Pa.
The excitement that varieties such as Honeycrisp create with consumers can certainly help increase sales, but there may come a point at which those sales are taking away sales from other varieties instead of just adding new customers.
“I think new varieties create some new apple customers, but also, sooner or later, they start to rob from other varieties,” Hess said, adding that reds and golds may have started to see a slight decline.
“You hope you are growing the category, and I think we are, but the more varieties, the more you spread the sales out,” he said.
Still, Hess doesn’t expect to see any variety disappear.
“I don’t feel we have any that will fall by the wayside,” he said.
On the other hand, other growers think some varieties may be phased out.
“Golden and red delicious used to be a staple, but more of those are being pulled out. Their shelf space used to be the majority, but now those are a row, at most, in a 12-row display,” said Ken Korson, sales and marketing for North Bay Produce Inc., Traverse City, Mich.
Others that may be seeing a decline are the rome and idared.
“Those have been around for a long time, but they have never wowed anyone like the Honeycrisp,” said Lee Peters, vice president of sales and marketing for Fowler Bros. Inc., Wolcott, N.Y.
“They are both good apples, and they have enjoyed a good place in apple business, but people are starting to pick up ones that eat better,” Peters said.
On the other side of the argument is that with proper display techniques, there’s room for all the varieties retailers want to offer.
“A successful trend that we are seeing is that retailers will display the mainline varieties on the shelf and then rotate the new varieties on a secondary display or side-table display,” Nager said.
“They will rotate them in and out every two weeks or so, and in that way will not cannibalize sales of the drivers of the business, their mainline varieties,” he said.
Other companies also have seen this trend.
“Retailers have begun to embrace a ‘variety of the month’ program, featuring lesser-known, low-volume varieties as an in-out item or utilizing it to create awareness for and subsequent consumers for new, higher-priced varieties,” said Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for Rainier Fruit Co., Yakima, Wash.