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Blake Belknap with Rainier Fruit

“We see continued growth in high-flavor varieties like Honeycrisp, Envy, and Jazz”

Harvest of the 2020 apple crop started early August in Washington state. “We began with conventional and organic Honeycrisp, followed by Galas, and early Fujis,” says Blake Belknap, VP of Sales at Rainier Fruit. “Overall, harvest dates have been average, weather has been optimal, and we’ve been very pleased with our crop development so far,” he added. The general fruit size is favorable with a spread across sizing, providing great flexibility to fill both bulk and bag needs.

Supplies are aligned with consumer preferences
Rainier Fruit is anticipating a crop similar to last year with growth in high-flavor varieties, including Honeycrisp, Jazz, Envy, Pink Lady, Lady Alice, and Cosmic Crisp. “Working closely with consumer preferences has always been our goal, and with that in mind we have aligned our supply to include more of the varieties consumers want more of in efforts to drive category growth,” Belknap shared.

The industry has seen much change over the years, especially a shift in varieties. “As a family-owned company that has been representing multigenerational family farms for nearly 50 years, we are grateful for the experience our family provides,” said Belknap. “Some of our growers are fifth and even sixth generation and our collective roots in combination with their experience help us look to the future with confidence.”

Organic Honeycrisp variety.

Organic Honeycrisp is key variety
There is an organic counterpart to every variety in Rainier’s portfolio. “This aligns with increased interest in organics across the category,” Belknap committed. “Organic Honeycrisp is an especially important variety to us, and we are proud of our domestically grown year-round status with the apple this year.” Rainier has been growing apples organically for nearly 20 years as they believe in the sustainable growing practices it offers and are quickly heading toward growing 50 percent of their apple volume organically.

Excitement around Jazz, Envy, and Wild Twist
Jazz and Envy are two varieties Rainier is very excited for this season. The new crop of both varieties is expected in October and with Envy having become a top 10 variety in national sales dollars, Rainier is looking forward to further strengthening the varieties’ consumer following. “We are also excited for the energy around Jazz as momentum with healthy snacking and grab and go packaging continues into new crop,” Blake added. Wild Twist is a new variety that Rainier continues to cultivate in partnership with Hess Brother’s Fruit Co. Although marketable Washington-grown volume is expected for the 2021 crop, Hess Brother’s has marketable product available this year.

Creating healthy pollinator communities
Related to Rainier’s belief in better growing practices, the company received its Bee Better™ certification back in June, which applies to the apple, blueberry, and cherry crops. “The program is near and dear to our hearts as it represents our commitment to sustainability and being Wholesome to the Core,” said Belknap. In short, this initiative with the Xerces Society is all about developing and promoting healthy pollinator communities as pollinators are critical to the success of fruit crops as well as entire ecosystems. Through Bee Better, Rainier is working with specialists to tailor pollinator habitats to each microclimate and orchard.

For more information:
Blake Belknap
Rainier Fruit Company
Tel: +1 (509) 697-6309

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