The biggest player in the California apple industry — Primavera Marketing Inc. — plans to keep betting on galas.
“We’re gravitating toward more galas to fulfill demand in August,” said Rich Sambado, sales manager of Stockton, Calif.-based Primavera Marketing. “Galas could go from 40% to 50% of our tonnage in the next one to three years.”
That’s a lot of tons. The company accounts for about 1.5 million of the state’s 2.2 million boxes of apples — all varieties — Sambado said. About 700,000 of Primavera’s total are in galas.
The company produces galas typically from late July to mid-September. Then granny smiths run late August to January, including controlled-atmosphere storage; fujis, late August to mid-November; and cripps pink, mid-October to early February.
Galas can end before Sept. 15 if pipelines are empty, as they were last year.
“It was the fastest, craziest season,” Sambado said. “If all this shelf space is dedicated to galas eight to 10 months a year and suddenly there’s not much around, my 3-year-old dog could sell them come Aug. 1. It’s the No. 1 apple in the U.S. Washington state has close to 25 million boxes.”
Investment in overhead cooling and newer gala strains has kept Primavera Marketing confident in its ability to compete worldwide. While its production is dwarfed by volumes out of Washington or Chile, Sambado is to some extent willing to challenge them.
“We hope there’s not much old crop around in August,” he said. “Retailers may still have Chilean and New Zealand apples on their shelves even if they’re four or five months old. If that crop is lingering through the U.S. retailer, it really affects our movement. And Washington apples can have birthdays in cold storage.”
Based partly on last year’s shortage, Sambado hopes to persuade buyers to try program purchasing.
“Retailers should be able to count on us to have the right quality and volume every season with a fresh gala starting Aug. 1, and really use Primavera’s California apples to transition from old imports to new-crop Washington,” he said. “We’re an ideal bridge for that, and we are looking to do more programmed selling.”
The company recently hired a consultant, Carolyn Becker of Marketing and Merchandising Services, to contact produce vice presidents and category managers. Sambado hopes the message will filter down to the buyers he deals with on a daily basis.