Apples and pears will continue to be go-to staples this spring and summer

Although uncertain times remain in the current COVID-19 environment, apples and pears are certain to continue to be go-to staples this spring and summer. Apple purchases were up considerably at the end of March – an increase of almost 41% year-over-year the week ending March 21.

David Roby, brand manager for Domex Superfresh Growers -Yakima, Washington- said he thinks this could be because apples store well and seem to be one of the items consumers are stocking up on during the pandemic. The company’s apples and pears are grown throughout the Pacific Northwest in Washington and Oregon.

“We encourage retailers to promote core apple varieties: Gala, Fuji and Granny Smith,” he said. “Combined, they only made up 38% of dollars sold on promo, while Honeycrisp alone represented 37%.”

However, Roby said Honeycrisp apples are being overpromoted, deflating overall apple sales. In the last weeks ending Feb. 22, Honeycrisp apples were No. 1 for sales dollars ($73 million) and second in volume (33 million), he said. They were up 2.4% in dollars, and up 18.8% in volume. Average retail was $2.22 per pound.

This season, Roby said Domex Superfresh Growers is prioritizing promotion of its Autumn Glory and Cosmic Crisp apples. Cosmic crisps entered the market in December, he said, and did extremely well. In both January and February, the apple maintained the 13th spot nationwide.

Solid crop volume
Washington State has a solid crop volume this season (2019-20) with improved quality and sizing, said Toni Lynn Adams, communications outreach coordinator for the Wenatchee-based Washington Apple Commission, adding that the fruit color has been “absolutely excellent.”

“Thanks to storage technologies and experienced suppliers, apple producers have the ability to provide apples year-round,” Adams said.

Brianna Shales, senior marketing manager for Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash., said Stemilt grows apples throughout Central Washington, but with a majority coming from the Columbia Basin growing region, including towns such as Quincy, Mattawa and Othello.

“We will have our largest crop of our signature Rave apple yet in 2020,” she said. “This apple is part Honeycrisp, part MonArk and comes from the same breeder that developed Honeycrisp and SweeTango.”

Earlier harvest
Chill hours typically are not a problem in Washington because of the cold nights experienced in the eastern part of the state, said Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing for Sage Fruit Co., based in Yakima as well. The majority of the company’s apples are grown in the Yakima Valley and near Royal City in the Columbia Basin.

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