Following the heat wave that covered large parts of the Pacific Northwest, the Washington apple industry is waiting to find out how the 2021 apple crop is affected.
“We’ve had record temperatures here in the Wenatchee Valley so we’re a little bit unsure as to how we’re going to come out,” says George Harter, vice-president of marketing for CMI Orchards based in Wenatchee, WA. “We won’t start harvesting until the middle of August. But again, with the heat, we won’t know the affect it will have on the apples until we get closer to harvest.”
Washington is waiting to find out how the recent heat wave affected its apples.
While the heat itself was an issue, it was the high sustained temperatures that are of greater concern. “Two weeks ago on Tuesday we were at 117 degrees here followed up by 113 degrees. We’ll probably end up with a record heat index for the summer,” says Harter.
As much as they could be used, heat mitigation efforts were employed on the crop. Growers use shade nets and overhead cooling systems to help mitigate high temperatures. “Our growers do what they can to protect their orchards and keep the fruit as cool as possible,” says Harter.
Outlook for premium/branded apples
This is coming at a time when CMI Orchards believes 2021 will be a big year for the premium and branded apple category. While consumers are looking for something different in apples, retailers are looking to gain more dollars for the volumes they’re selling. “There seems to be an appetite to look at club and premium apple varieties,” says Harter, noting CMI markets a number of these branded apples including Envy, Jazz, KIKU, Kanzi, Ambrosia Gold and more. “So if your core variety is $1.49, your premium is $1.99 and your organic premium is $2.49, it gives a really good mix to drive sales into those higher retail items--trading up shoppers and growing your category.”
CMI Orchards believes 2021 will be a big year for the premium and branded apple category which includes its Ambrosia Gold apples (above).
It’s also a time when there’s great consideration over packaging options for apples--particularly following a year where bagged apple sales proved a popular choice with consumers for their convenience and perceived safety. “So the questions we are facing are: what packages do customers want their apples in? Fibre? Plastic clamshell or bag? What size bag would that be? These questions will not have a linear answer,” says Harter. “The answers will vary by region and community because while there are preferences for different flavors of apples, there are also preferences for package types as well. Sustainability is going to be huge for consumers and packaging is just one piece of it.”