Apple King grows the Crimson Delight variety, a cross between gala and splendor, for L&M Cos. Inc. ( Courtesy L&M Cos. Inc. )

Washington apple grower-shippers and marketers say they have a variety for every taste.

Yakima, Wash.-based Sage Fruit Co., for example, has 10 “standard varieties,” said Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing. Among them: gala, fuji, granny smith, golden delicious, red delicious, Pink Lady, braeburn, jonagold, Cameo and Honeycrisp, he said.

New this year is the Cosmic Crisp, Sinks said.

“From the supply side, we’ve seen increasing interest with regards to proprietary varieties,” he said. 

“Some of the standard varieties are slowly making room for those new varieties. For example, you’ll see less acreage of golden delicious, jonagolds and braeburns than in years past. However, most standard varieties still hold a place on the retail shelf — they’re what people know.”

The best way to manage varieties is to carry what consumers want — their purchasing behavior dictates what to add to the variety mix, Sinks said.

“We also like to get our retailers to try our new varieties, test them in different locations, sample them, etc., to drive the consumers’ interest,” he said.

The most important characteristic in a new apple variety is flavor, Sinks said.

“The taste has to ‘wow’ the consumer for them to become a repeat customer; however, it also must catch their attention on the store shelves, and a bright-colored piece of fruit tends to do that over a low-colored one.”

Therefore, the development of new apple varieties has been focused on a great eating experience for consumers, while also honing high-color strains of the varieties, Sinks said.

“There are several ways we’re working with retail partners to continue to move volume across all varieties,” Sinks said. 

He mentioned building eye-catching displays and providing product information.

Store sampling and in-store digital promotions also are important, Sinks said.

“Additionally, our market reps in the field are available to help build marketing strategies specific to the retailer for whatever best suits their needs,” he said.

Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group showcases its trademarked Jazz, Envy and Pacific Rose varieties, said Karin Gardner, director of corporate communications.

“With the volume growth and skyrocketing popularity of Envy, we’re looking to ‘superboost’ the apple at retail,” she said. 

In recent months, considerable independent consumer research has been undertaken to better understand the potential of Envy in the U.S. market, Gardner said.

“Excitingly, the results from these focus groups, online panels and sensory evaluations have ranked Envy as the leader in shopper preference, ranking ahead of other popular varieties for flavor, texture and appearance,” she said. 

“It also delivers the ‘ideal apple experience’ better than others, according to the study. Armed with an exponentially larger market activation budget than Envy has enjoyed in the past, we plan to leverage these findings to enable our customers to drive more Envy sales through consistent placement and customized, strategically timed promotions, using eye-catching branded materials and focusing on sampling.”

Raleigh, N.C.-based grower-shipper L&M Cos. Inc. has been marketing a Crimson Delight apple for about three years, said John Long, sales/operations director of L&M’s Union Gap, Wash., office.

Yakima, Wash.-based Apple King grows the apple for L&M, he said.

“Our production of the Crimson Delight is increasing each year,” Long said. 

“The Crimson Delight apple is a cross between a gala and a splendor (older golden variety). The apple is very crisp and stores very well. At this time, our production is about 40,000 cartons per year.”

Other sales/marketing companies in Washington are also trying to find a place in the market for their so-called “club varieties,” Long said.

He said the Cosmic Crisp — a descendant of the Honeycrisp — is expected to be easier to grow than the Honeycrisp and have many of the same eating qualities.

“The volume of Cosmic Crisp apples will go from no volume to up to 10 million cartons in the next few years, so market development for the Cosmic Crisp will have to be a major focus of the apple industry,” Long said.

Elgin, Minn.-based Honeybear Brands, which was an early supplier of the Honeycrisp, now has the late-season Pazazz variety in Washington November through summer, said Don Roper, vice president of sales and marketing.

“Customers describe it as a Jolly Rancher-flavored apple,” Roper said. 

“We have a robust marketing campaign slated for Pazazz again this season including targeted digital media, sampling efforts at community events along with added value elements of support to help our retailers execute at the store level.”

Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers LLC has upped its volume on organic, as well as conventional, Honeycrisp apples, said Brianna Shales, communications director.

“We also have our largest crop yet of Rave apples, which harvests in late July and will be available into October,” she said.

Rave is from the same breeder that developed Honeycrisp but ripens earlier and “has its own phenomenal flavor that we describe as ‘outrageously juicy with a refreshing, snappy zing,’” Shales said. 

“Because this is a Stemilt signature apple, we have lots of exciting consumer marketing activity planned and are working closely with retailers to make their plans a success.”

Stemilt also grows the SweeTango variety for the western part of the U.S., and it will follow a few weeks after Rave, Shales said.

“Then, we have newer, high-quality and color strains of fuji, gala, and Piñata and Honeycrisp in this crop,” Shales said. 

“All in all, even though we have big volumes coming as an industry, we have the right mix for promotion and lots of tools to help retailers sell lots of apples this year.” 

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