In a few weeks, Rainier Fruit’s organic apple harvest will finish off with the Pink Lady variety. The entire organic apple category has been performing well this year. “Increasing health awareness has contributed to the momentum of the category,” says Blake Belknap with Rainier Fruit. As a result, the market share of the organic apple category has increased over the last 52 weeks ending 09/26/2020.
Organic shoppers are premium focused
“It is becoming more and more apparent that organic shoppers are not only health focused, but also premium focused,” continued Belknap. As a result, more consistent varieties including Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji, Honeycrisp, and Pink Lady make up the majority of organic purchases. “Honeycrisp in particular has become a household name – the apple’s crunch, sweetness, and juiciness has created a cult following.” As a result of increasing volumes in the organic segment, the apple category continues to deal with conventional Honeycrisp deflation. “However, organic Honeycrisp offers retailers a chance to trade the premium consumer up, providing an opportunity to backfill dollars lost to deflation.”
Rainier has been growing organic apples for nearly 20 years. Much trial and error were required to learn which tools and microclimates work best for each variety to maximize quality and storability. In recent years, the focus has expanded from growing apples organically to year-round availability of the organic apple program. “All of our organic varieties are available year-round now except for Pink Lady, which we anticipate having available into July of this upcoming year. This last season we supplied domestically grown organic Honeycrisp year-round, an industry first that we are proud to achieve,” Belknap mentioned.
Organic production continues to grow, and Rainier anticipates reaching 50 percent organically grown within the next few years. “Our organic apple program is our flagship – we’ve been investing in organic agriculture for nearly 20 years and are thrilled to soon grow half of our production organically.” The company’s conventional apple program has been able to benefit from the strength of the organic program. “Organic consumers are looking for an all-natural piece of fruit with no additional additives and as a result, we’re able to employ organic growing practices across the entire operation, benefitting conventional fruit as well.”