Chelan Fresh's Mac Riggan, CMI's Steve Lutz, Stemilt Growers' Brianna Shales, Oppy's David Nelley, and Giumarra Wenatchee's Jason Bushong Talk Apple Season
CHILE, NEW ZEALAND, & WASHINGTON – As the industry shifts regions in apple harvesting for the upcoming domestic season, companies across the board are gearing up for a volume-filled year, aided by prime growing conditions in the Northwestern part of the U.S.
Stemilt is gearing up for a high-demand year, matched by exceptional quality and volume for the company following prime growing conditions. As Communications Manager Brianna Shales recently told me, Stemilt is anticipating a crop of larger-sized apples and is especially excited about the qualities of its signature variety, Pinata®, premium Honeycrisp apples, and industry-leading Pink Lady® and Fuji programs.
Stemilt’s Artisan Organics™ apples are up in volume as the company has completed the transition of new acreage to organic. “We are now 30% organic on all apples, which is helping us meet the high consumer demand for organics,” Brianna says.
Stemilt starts harvest in mid-August with the Gala variety, and picks until late October with Pink Lady®. The company focuses on picking at maturities that are optimal for storage and the consumer eating experience. Aztec is a new strain of Fuji that Stemilt has pioneered to offer premium-quality Fuji apples year-round.
Also new for Stemilt is a consumer-focused website called “There’s an Apple for That.”
“It’s a digital tool that helps introduce new flavors of apple varieties through their best usages or pairings. It’s a great piece for retailers to promote bulk apples around in-store, while also integrating with their digital teams to promote produce on social media,” finishes Brianna.
As Chelan Fresh prepares to harvest out of North Central Washington, Director of Marketing Mac Riggan says that the company is preparing for good-sized apple crop, with an estimate of 12 million boxes for the season.
“We’ve had very good weather this spring, with virtually no frost and warm weather which promotes good cell division,” Mac says. “We had a beautiful bloom period. We’re already seeing a lot of high-colored apples this far from harvest yet. We’re optimistic for this season.”
Chelan Fresh expects to see good export and domestic sales this season, due to the size, shape, and color coming from its crop. Mac says that Chelan Fresh is pairing its promotable volume with a wide array of POS materials, specifically “to engage and influence the tastes of the young, kids 13 and younger, to become lifelong apple consumers,” he says.
Chelan Fresh will supply Honeycrisp, Fuji, Gala, Canadian Ambrosia, Granny Smith, and the exclusive Rockit Apple this season, in addition to other varieties.
As David Nelley, Executive Category Director for Apples and Pears at Oppy, tells me, the company is gearing up for a high-demand year, with quality selections of JAZZ, Envy, and Pacific Rose varieties.
“Our three varieties are really finding their footing. Large retailers are eager to stock all three, and even award them private label status,” David says of buy-side demand. JAZZ, Envy, and Pacific Rose are growing in both acreage and market demand, with higher interest in Asian markets as well.
Oppy is currently in prime selling season for its JAZZ and Envy apples from Chile and New Zealand as part of its year-round supply, and ramping up for Washington-grown JAZZ apples starting the second week in September. Envy and Pacific Rose will follow shortly after.
“July has given us outstanding apple-growing weather in Washington,” David says. “We are happy to report that in these early days, JAZZ apples are sizing up over last year’s profile.”
Oppy is offering promotional activities both locally and nationally through retailers, tailored to store formats and specific shopper styles for the category.
CMI is around two to three weeks from its normal season in Washington. As Steve Lutz, Vice President of Marketing, recently told me, the company is currently packing Early Golds this week before starting limited supplies of its Gala variety in the second week of August.
“We are very excited about the quality and sizing we have coming in this crop. We expect a spectacular crop of Ambrosia, and increased quantities of our #1 selling Daisy Girl organics,” Steve says. CMI has been selling out of Ambrosia, due to its wide domestic demand.
Steve divulges that the company has seen better apple growing weather this year over last, with cooler weather with sunny days. CMI is expecting its Washington crop to 20% larger than last year, with increases to its branded apples like Ambrosia and Kanzi.
Starting this fall, CMI will also be selling its own crop of Jazz, Envy, and Pacific Rose apples to consumers, supported by a range of sales support tools. Retailers can take advantage of POS materials, two and five box shippers, and custom display materials.
Giumarra Wenatchee is in peak season for its apple program out of New Zealand and Chile, as Jason Bushong, Division Manager, recently told me.
“We have good fresh arrivals to finish out the summer. We have a full plate of Royal Gala, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Cripps Pink, Fuji, as well as new proprietary varieties, Diva and Lemonade,” Jason says of the company’s prospective lineup this year.
So far into the season, the company has experienced weather patterns which have produced nice volumes and quality of fruit, Jason continues. “Quality this year has been very good,” he says.
“This year, we’re offering a full array of POS material, packaging styles, and demo support- particularly on our new IP apple varieties, which we are introducing,” finishes Jason.
As companies ramp up their Northwest apple production, stick with AndNowUKnow as we keep a close eye on the market.