Two of New York’s newest apple varieties are on the cusp of major market gains, said Mark Russell, who helps lead Crunch Time Apple Growers, a grower cooperative with exclusive rights to the Cornell University-developed RubyFrost and SnapDragon apples.
“We’re generating a lot of excitement for what should be a pretty good marketing year,” said Russell, vice chairman of the board and chairman of the marketing committee for Crunch Time, a 145-grower network.
Crunch Time expects to reach a 100,000-box sales milestone for each variety for the first time during the upcoming marketing year, which will be the fourth for SnapDragon and fifth for RubyFrost, Russell said.
“They’re doubling, more or less,” he said. “That’s got us hard at work trying to get everything ready to go.”
The new crop of SnapDragons will be on the market in the fall, with RubyFrost shipping out of storage in January.
Both have performed well, he said.
John Teeple, owner of Wolcott, N.Y.-based Teeple Farms, said he has seen steady growth in his RubyFrost and SnapDragon sales.
“Volume has been doubling almost every year,” he said. “It’ll be a big jump this year for RubyFrost.”
The best is yet to come for the two new varieties, Teeple said.
“We won’t have peak production until 2020-21, possibly ’22. (We’re) just trying to get the trees on the right root stocks and get them into the ground,” he said.
“We’ve had very positive reviews from consumers, and the trade is looking forward to them.”
The two new varieties are proving to be “crucial to the industry,” said Alisha Albinder, operations manager with Milton, N.Y.-based Hudson River Fruit Distributors.
“We can’t all plant galas and fujis. We need that diversity, and consumers are wanting something new,” she said.
Eastern growers have numerous other varieties to market, including Honeycrisp, Pink Lady and granny smith, as well as other relative newcomers, such as EverCrisp and SenecaCrisp.
Geneva, N.Y.-based Red Jacket Orchards, which has about 200 acres of apple production, has about 10 reserved for SenecaCrisp, said Mark Nicholson, executive vice president.
“It’s still limited, but next year, we anticipate new plantings kicking in,” he said.
Nicholson said his company has exclusive rights to that variety in the region.
Gardners, Pa.-based Rice Fruit Co. partners with CMI Orchards in Wenatchee, Wash., and Applewood Orchards in Deerfield, Mich., to grow and market Kiku apples, said Brenda Briggs, Rice Fruit’s vice president of sales and marketing. “The realm of marketing branded apples has become crowded,” she said. “Kiku was among the earlier proprietary apples to the market and has developed a great following.” Other proprietary varieties are finding followings in the East.
“SweeTango has performed very well with consumers and soon we’ll begin to have marketable quantities of EverCrisp, which are getting great reviews from the trade,” said Dave Williams, vice president of sales and marketing with Wolcott, N.Y.-based Fowler Farms, which also has mcintosh, empire, fuji and gala varieties.