Michigan Honeycrisp apples will have a special place in Kroger’s produce departments this year.

Cincinnati-based The Kroger Co. stores east of the Mississippi will have an exclusive cardboard shipper that holds five Eurocartons of Michigan Honeycrisp apples, said Denise Donohue, executive director of the DeWitt-based Michigan Apple Committee.

The state’s growers have invested orchards and money into increasing Honeycrisp volumes during the past few years, as have many regions of the country.

“Consumers are really asking for a Northern-grown Honeycrisp,” Donohue said.

To promote Michigan-grown Honeycrisp, the committee developed the Kroger-exclusive cartons to merchandise the apples.
The committee also developed shippers that will go to all retailers.

Along with the shippers, the committee developed recipes, posters, signs and in-store activities, including cooking demonstrations, for this season’s Honeycrisp apples.

“Those of us in the industry may be thinking that’s (Honeycrisp) old hat, but here in Michigan people are just wild about it,” Donohue said.

“We in produce need to realize everybody doesn’t know about it, everybody hasn’t heard of it yet.”

The state normally runs out of Honeycrisps sometime in November, as the variety doesn’t store as well as others.

The committee also commissioned three focus groups over the winter to determine consumer taste preferences. Focus group participants were given six apples, different varieties from different states, and asked which they preferred.

“Michigan Honeycrisp came out on top,” Donohue said. “Michigan jonagold (was) No. 2.”

The committee also plans a holiday baking rebate that will run for seven weeks through November and December.

Donohue said the goal is to get retailers to run apple ads on six varieties that are preferred for baking — golden delicious, idared, rome, jonathan, jonagold and cortland. Michigan doesn’t grow many granny smith apples, which are also often used in baking.