Organic apple sales typically drop off some time during the summer, both because supply has been limited and the expertise to hold them for an extended period in controlled atmosphere storage is still a work in progress.
Both of those issues are being addressed, but how long the supply of organic apples lasts into the summer depends largely upon the variety. “We will have good quality organics into the summer as we normally do and the two most favored varieties that are left in storage in volume are Galas and Fujis,” said Catherine Gipe-Stewart, communications manager for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, WA.
Catherine Gipe-Stewart, Communications Manager, Domex Superfresh Growers
Gipe-Stewart told OPN this week that the Washington apple industry had shipped 8.6 million boxes of organic apples to market with about 7.5 million boxes remaining in storage. “Volume shipped and remaining is 400,000 boxes more than a year ago,” she said, adding that momentum on organic apple sales is excellent.
She also reported that scan data from the previous four weeks revealed that year over year “organic dollars were up nine percent and volume was up 11 percent. Organic average price per pound was down slightly more than two percent at $2.12.”
Domex SuperFresh Organic Apples
Gipe-Stewart added the Gala variety is the workhorse of the category, representing 40 percent of organic apple volume. Fuji, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, and Pink Lady round out the top five. Over the past year, Gipe-Stewart said the organic apple category is up one and one-half percent in dollars and 3 percent in pounds.
Brianna Shales, communications manager for Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, WA, said the organic apple category “is performing well and there remains opportunities to promote organic apples in the spring and early summer months.” She agreed Galas and Fujis will offer the best opportunity for retail promotions moving into spring and summer and mentioned that Earth Day on April 22 is always a big time for organic promotions.
Brianna Shales, Communications Manager, Stemilt Growers
“As always, it’s important that we line up the 4 Ps to continue to grow the organic apple category in the late season. Price, promotion, product and placement are all key to success on organics,” Shales said.
While the Washington apple industry has been able to stretch the season, Shales said Stemilt “will have a small supply gap between this crop and the 2019 crop of organics.” The Stemilt representative said the company and its growers are working hard to increase the organic supply of some of the specialty apple varieties.
Stemilt Pinata Apple
“We grow all of our proprietary varieties organically. Pinata is our signature apple that we have available now, and Rave and SweeTango come in August,” Shales said. “Usually with a new variety, conventional volumes come first and organic follows as it takes time to transition and achieve organic certification.”
Organic apples also offer forward-thinking retailers a great opportunity to grow the category and up the average ring. At least that is the view of George Harter, vice president of marketing for Columbia Marketing International LLC, Wenatchee, WA.
George Harter, VP of Marketing, Columbia Marketing International
Harter said the apple category is in danger of experiencing an overall drop in sales unless retailers start concentrating more of their efforts on increasing sales of the higher priced items in the category, which includes organic and specialty apples…and even better, a combination of the two: organic specialty apples.
He added some grower-shippers and many retailers continue to fight for market share by lowering the f.o.b. and retail price of the traditional varieties rather than promoting sales of the higher priced item, which he says consumers want. “We offer seven of the top 10 varieties consumers want,” noting that Ambrosia is number one in this category followed by Envy.
Harter said CMI features several other popular varieties in its apple lineup and the firm does offer organic SKUs of the top two specialty apple varieties as well as Kanzi and Kiku.
CMI Kanzi Apples
Each of these varieties – and many other specialty varieties – offer unique flavor profiles and are truly the drivers for increased growth in the category, Harter said. He reiterated that the apple industry has to move in this direction to avoid a decline in average retail sales price for the category.
“The apple category is at risk, but we see the light,” he said. “We have to strengthen the category with these club varieties, both organic and conventional.”