The Washington apple harvest has wrapped up, and overall this season had ideal growing conditions. Starr Ranch Growers is a fully vertically integrated company who grow their apples in Washington. This year is the second year that they will have promotable volumes for an extended period of time for their exclusive Juici variety.
Promotable volumes of Juici
Dan Davis, the company’s Director of Business Development, says: “We saw a large jump in production this year. We have been planting these trees for several years now, and the pre-productive trees have been coming into full production. For the next few years we will see volumes increase every season as more and more of our trees will reach maturity and start producing good volumes.”
“Last year’s volumes were about half of what they are now and we ran through our product really quickly but this year we are expecting to be able to sustain our partners through the end of March and we should be able to do some good promotions these next five months. We are careful, too, to keep the pricing at a level where it isn’t cost-prohibitive to try a new variety,” Davis says.
Working toward year-round supply
The Juici apple should be available through March this year, but this window of availability will be extended over the next few years. Davis says: “We are expecting to run through our volumes by the end of March this year but when our volumes will increase in the next seasons, we’ll be able to sell for longer because the product has a great shelf-life. We are not expecting to sell this variety year-round from Washington, however, because we want to ensure a high-quality and reliable eating experience for our customers.”
“Currently, this variety is grown only in Washington but we are exploring our options for growing it in the Southern Hemisphere too. If we are able to grow Juici in dual hemispheres then we could import the fruit during the summer months and sell it year-round,” he adds.
Koru variety also seeing great results
Starr Ranch Growers is one of the three North American companies that sells the Koru variety. Davis describes: “This variety came from a chance seedling from New Zealand, and was grown there first. Now it is also grown in Washington and New York. Because it is grown in dual hemispheres, we are able to supply this variety year-round. Our Washington crop usually lasts through June, and then we import the New Zealand product until our harvest begins again in October.”
The Koru is a sweet variety, Davis explains: “This variety has some Fuji and Braeburn parentage and it is lower in acidity than some other varieties. This variety has been very successful in our Asian export markets, as well as on the North American coasts. We can see that the Midwest craves more tart-sweet apples, but the East and the West Coasts have high demand for sweet, crisp apples like the Koru.”
Ideal retail sizes
Davis describes this year’s crop as a ‘vintage eating crop’: “The quality and flavor of this year’s apples are really better than they have been in the past ten years. The volumes were high and the product has good potential for storage as well. Both the Juici and the Koru are in the ideal retail window, size-wise, with sizes ranging from 72s to 88s. We do very little baggable fruit for these varieties – the high volumes of high quality product are right in the retail-window for the bulk displays. Overall, we’re really excited about this crop and eager to get the product into the hands of the consumers because we feel like there is great potential in this crop,” Davis concludes.