With companies releasing new apple varieties each year, competition can present a struggle when trying to get those new apples into shopping carts.
Despite all the recent releases, more well-known varieties still account for the majority of sales.
Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash., said category sales data from last year’s crop shows the top six varieties account for 88% of sales.
He listed galas, red delicious, fuji, granny smith, Honeycrisp, and golden delicious as the top six, referencing data from Nielsen Perishables Group.
However, companies still can see success for new varieties if they use effective marketing, said Ken Korson, sales and marketing for North Bay Produce Inc., Traverse City, Mich.
“One of the big things behind the success of Honeycrisp is that it was promoted really heavily. It had a lot of advertising, so it had a really strong start,” Korson said. “It’s even become almost a cult following with the younger generation.”
He compared this success with the release of the jonagold variety.
“It wasn’t really promoted when it first came out, so it’s not that popular today,” he said.
Bob Mast, vice president of marketing for Columbia Marketing International Corp., Wenatchee, Wash., agreed that promotion is important.
That’s what CMI has attempted to do with its Ambrosia variety.
“We did some things to throw some new life behind it,” Mast said. “We have informational tote bags that provide a take-home unit for the consumers that gives them information on the variety.”
The bags feature a QR code that directs consumers to a mobile site with recipes, information and a video from the grower directly from the orchard.
“The bags also have the POU number on the handle, which allows for proper scan through on the register,” he said, referencing that many new varieties are often rung up incorrectly.
Regional trends can make a difference in sales as well.
“Historically, a lot of these apples are regionally accepted, so that gives you a little more flexibility,” said Mike Rothwell, president of BelleHarvest Sales Inc., Belding, Mich.
Peter Forrence, vice president at Forrence Orchards Inc., Peru, N.Y., said his company specializes in mcintosh apples.
“Mcintosh continues to be a staple for most chains. Certainly on the East Coast, they all want to have a mcintosh presence,” he said.
Forrence said fewer growers offer the variety because it is difficult to grow, but because of his company’s location, the mcintosh will remain its main variety.
The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, has had success promoting its Pacific Rose variety in exports to Asia.
“While demand from China and other export markets remains hot this season, we are channeling more Pacific Rose domestically than we have in the past,” said David Nelley, apple category director.
“We have found that Pacific Rose tends to sell very well in areas with high concentrations of Asian and Hispanic shoppers due to the sweet flavor profile, and (we) are encouraging specialty and mainstream retailers alike to promote it for Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb. 10,” he said.