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Washington continues to grow new apple varieties

SugarBee apple goes commercial, NZ Rockit's first domestic crop

Late last year, Chelan Fresh introduced the SugarBee, a new open cross-pollination apple variety (Honeycrisp and unknown parent). The new bi-colored apple is crisp, juicy and sweet. “We’re very excited about it,” said Tim Evans, General Sales Manager. The apple was celebrated with a small launch last fall and as it grows in production in the next few years it will be rolled out on a larger scale with an expected commercial volume in about three to four years. 

“We’ve tested this (variety) for many years and year after year it’s gotten very positive feedback so we’ve decided to go into commercial planting,” he said. “It’s a propriety variety for the Chelan Fresh Growing Group.” The SugarBee is placed in the medium – large-sized fruit category. The company also packs all the core varieties: Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji, Gala, Pink Lady, and Honeycrisp. 

Domestic market for reds is shrinking
The halfway point of the year was two weeks ago and Evans said it seems like the industry has shipped about 51% of total volume, “so we’re right on pace.” Although Red Delicious will be challenging for the rest of the year with only about 40% shipped to date. “We export the majority of our reds anyway, there’s still a decent domestic market for reds but it’s shrinking.” 

Another new variety, the Rockit apple, which was launched from New Zealand in 2010, is sweet and crunchy. It grows naturally small and is a red blush color, originated by crossing a cultivar from the Gala and Gala Splendor variety of apple. Chelan Fresh is now the exclusive grower, marketer of the apple in North America. “We’ve had our first real domestic crop this past fall and we’re just about done selling that crop now,” said Evans. “And we’ll continue to import from NZ to create some year round programs.” 

Honeycrisp a popular variety
Over the next few weeks they’ll be continuing to try and satisfy the Granny Smith demand.” That’s been a big trend over the past couple of years. It seems like there’s increased demand which is great for our growers.” Honey Crisp is always a commodity focus but he said that supply has now shrunk to below levels of a year ago with a much bigger crop to start with this year. “We’ve seen that crop shrink to levels below on hand versus last year at this time. There’s a push for flavor and taste profile and good condition fruit is something the industry is getting after in a big way and we’ll continue to see new varietals come aboard so we’re excited about what we have in the pipeline.” 

For more information:
Tim Evans 
Chelan Fresh 
Ph: (509) 682-4252 

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