With the Washington organic apple harvest complete, an updated look reveals that the 2023/24 crop produced more than 19.5 million cartons, representing about 14 percent of the overall apple crop. About two-thirds of the organic crop was reported in the January 1 storage report, which means there are still big promotional opportunities for the taking.
“Historically, January–May is a good time for organic promotions at retail,” said Brianna Shales, marketing director for Stemilt Growers, based in Wenatchee, Washington. “We are advising large organic promotions at retail for spring holidays, including Earth Day in April.”
Brianna Shales, Marketing Director, Stemilt
Bagged apples offer a good opportunity to give the consumer value and are a great strategy for moving more volume. “Of course, Stemilt’s Lil Snappers 3-pound pouch bags are available in a wide range of organics and a great way to merchandise and market to parent shoppers,” Shales noted.
Due to this year's large crop, Shales predicted there won’t be a gap in Washington State supplies on core organic varieties between this season and the 2024/25 season. She said Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Cosmic Crisp should all have consistent supply going into the next harvest season.
In promoting the crops, Shales urged retailers to “plan those multi-variety organic ads each month during the next several months. ... The quality of the crop is there, and we have a range of varieties, packaging, and merchandising solutions to support retailers and sell more organics.”
“Historically, January–May is a good time for organic promotions at retail. We are advising large organic promotions at retail for spring holidays, including Earth Day in April.” - Brianna Shales
Kaci Komstadius, vice president of marketing for Sage Fruit Company in Yakima, Washington, noted that the packout for organic apples was a bit less than the early estimate, but the 19.5 million cartons still represent a crop that is much larger than 2022–2023. “The demand for organic fresh produce has remained strong, and this season we are seeing excellent movement in organic apples,” she said, adding that a smaller price gap between organic and conventional has led to better price points for organic consumers.
Kaci Komstadius, Vice President of Marketing, Sage Fruit Company
Looking ahead, the Sage Fruit executive said there are excellent promotional opportunities on several varieties, including Gala, Honeycrisp, Fuji, and Cosmic Crisp. “Our most sought-out organic item by retailers is organic Honeycrisp, but organic Gala and Fuji don’t fall too far behind. Organic Honeycrisp is a high-end consumer favorite, which has an excellent ring at the register. On the opposite side of that, though, organic Gala and Fuji are an excellent option for the everyday organic consumer because they are more price friendly.”
“Our most sought out organic item by retailers is organic Honeycrisp, but organic Gala and Fuji don’t fall too far behind." - Kaci Komstadius
Komstadius also offered some tips on moving this year’s excellent organic apple crop. “Build eye-catching displays—grab the consumers’ attention as they walk into the store or produce department. We have numerous point-of-sale bins and marketing materials to help create the displays.”
She added that product information as well as in-store and digital promotions can be effective.
Komstadius also noted if space permits, keeping apples refrigerated is ideal. “By keeping apples refrigerated, they retain more moisture, hold their shape, and maintain their crisp texture,” she said. “This provides the consumer with the best eating experience possible and ensures repeat purchases.”
Catherine Gipe-Stewart, Director of Marketing, Domex Superfresh Growers
Catherine Gipe-Stewart, director of marketing for Domex Superfresh Growers in Yakima, Washington, reported that the organic apple crop is holding up very well. “As we headed into the 2023 new crop harvest, we heard from our farm team that this was truly the best quality year,” she said. “Now that we are about mid-point through the year, that sentiment remains true. We continue to see excellent quality, flavor, and color with our organic apples.”
"As we headed into the 2023 new crop harvest, we heard from our farm team that this was truly the best quality year." - Catherine Gipe-Stewart
She added that movement on organic Pink Ladies and Honeycrisps has been strong. She reported that to date, organic Honeycrisp volume is up 22 percent, while dollars are up 13 percent. Organic Pink Lady volume and dollars were up 14 percent.
“We continue to be impressed with Cosmic Crisp and how quickly it has become America’s favorite. Organic Cosmic Crisp is complementary to the whole category,” Gipe-Stewart said. “Volume was up 51 percent, while dollars were up 110 percent."
To continue to move this crop, Gipe-Stewart urged Domex's "retail partners to keep the throttle down on apple promotions.”
Shales of Stemilt also took a look at Nielsen retail scan data for the September 1, 2023–December 30, 2023 period and reported that organic apple sales were up 13.8 percent at retail on average in the US over the same timeframe in 2022, and dollars were up 7.3 percent during this period.
“It’s great to see increases over last year given the larger organic crop,” she said. “Retail pricing has shifted down from $2.72/lb on average last year to $2.56/lb currently. In December 2023, organic Honeycrisp had a 40 percent year-over-year volume increase and made up a whopping 40 percent of organic apple sales. With the supply of organics available, there is still room for organic apple promotions and the late winter and early spring are great times to do that. Stemilt suggests running multiple organic apple varieties on ad at the same time to help increase volume and dollars from this area of the apple category.”