There are currently promotable supplies of Washington’s 2021 organic apple crop, but there is the expectation that supplies will run out earlier this year than in 2021 because of the crazy high temperatures Washington endured last summer.
“We’ve seen a slight reduction in volume after an unprecedented summer of high temperatures,” said Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing for Sage Fruit Company in Yakima, WA. “We have seen a few condition issues so far, but the biggest concern right now is how the fruit being stored will hold up for the duration of the season.”
Sink also noted that there should be promotable volume on organic apples throughout the spring and into the summer. “It will depend on the variety and how these apples come out of storage before we know for sure which varieties of organic apples have the best opportunity for promotion over the next several months.”
“We’ve seen a slight reduction in volume after an unprecedented summer of high temperatures.” – Chuck Sinks
While Mother Nature is playing an outsized role this year, the Sage Fruit executive said both supply and demand of organic apples continue to increase, with organic apples currently making up about 18 percent of total volume. “Everyone’s favorite organic apple is the Honeycrisp; however in the next several months, there will be excellent opportunities for organic Fuji and Pink Lady promotions. Additionally, this season, we have our first organic Cosmic Crisp volume available for our retail partners.”
Chuck Sinks, President of Sales and Marketing, Sage Fruit Company
Sinks said the future is bright for the sector. “Roughly 52 percent of organic consumers are millennials, and they account for 30 percent of the US population. The majority of millennials who are purchasing organic items are also parents. Our organic program will continue to grow over the next several years to meet demand.”
Dan Davis, Director of Business Development, Starr Ranch Growers
Dan Davis, director of business development for Starr Ranch Growers in Wenatchee, WA, expects good volume of organic apples through Q1 with volume dropping off significantly in Q2. “There is promotable volume right now, especially of organic Fujis and Pinks,” he said.
“Roughly 52 percent of organic consumers are millennials, and they account for 30 percent of the US population. The majority of millennials who are purchasing organic items are also parents. Our organic program will continue to grow over the next several years to meet demand.” – Chuck Sinks
Organic apples are just not holding up in storage as well as the conventional apples because there were heat protection products available for conventional orchards last summer that could not be applied to trees vying for organic certification. Consequently, organic supplies are dwindling at a relatively quicker pace, and the market price is accelerating faster.
Davis said organic apples started out the season with about a 10 percent premium over the conventional market, and that is now moving toward a 20 percent gap. He added that Starr Ranch will run out of organic apples from Washington sooner than it did last year. The strategy, he said, is to ration out shipments until the local supplies can be augmented with offshore organic apples several months down the road.
Another shipper weighing in on the situation was Stemilt Growers, which is also headquartered in Wenatchee. “Washington State has a smaller apple crop this year compared to last, and that impacts organic volumes as well,” said Brianna Shales, Stemilt's marketing director. “It’s a bit mixed on varieties that are tighter versus those that have promotion opportunities.”
Brianna Shales, Marketing Director, Stemilt
Organic apples are just not holding up in storage as well as the conventional apples because there were heat protection products available for conventional orchards last summer that could not be applied to trees vying for organic certification.
Despite the challenges, Shales said the late winter and spring are still good times to promote organics, with both Honeycrisp and Granny Smith offering promotional opportunities. “These will make a nice balanced promotion featuring an apple on the sweeter side and one on the tart side,” she added.
The Stemilt representative noted the shorter apple crop has led to a strengthening of the price on both conventional and organic fruit, with organics maintaining a healthy premium. Shales added that bagged offerings, which are typically a value buy, are in high demand for organics. “Retailers can look to larger pack types like five-pound pouch bags to merchandise larger-sized organic apples.”
Still another shipper, Domex Superfresh Growers in Yakima, reported its experiences with organic apples for the 2021/22 crop years. Communications Manager Catherine Gipe-Stewart said the grower-shipper currently “has a healthy supply of organic apples” with enough volume to carry sales to late July. She added that the key promotable organic varieties are Pink Lady and Granny Smith.
Catherine Gipe-Stewart, Communications Manager, Domex Superfresh Growers
“We enjoyed ideal temperatures during harvest in September and October, and are seeing really nice color, flavor and quality on all varieties,” she said. “We expect this to last all the way through storage season.”
She added that the company will have organic Autumn Glory and Golden Delicious through the spring, while organic Granny, Fuji, Gala, Pink Lady, and Honeycrisp will last into summer. Gipe-Stewart did acknowledge that there are tighter supplies of organics this year compared to last year for many of the varieties including Fuji, Honeycrisp and Gala apples.
“We enjoyed ideal temperatures during harvest in September and October, and are seeing really nice color, flavor and quality on all varieties.” – Catherine Gipe-Stewart
She also noted that Nielsen scan data for December showed that in the organic category Honeycrisp and Gala led the way representing more than half of all organic apple sales.