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US: Kiku season started ahead of schedule due to sales soar

Riding the success of the recently completed import season, U.S. growers of KIKU® brand apples announced this week that packing of new crop apples started early to respond to rising retail demand.

According to Steve Lutz, Vice President of Marketing for CMI, retail sales data reveals that KIKU® brand apples are one of the “hot brands” in the apple category. “If you look at the most recent 13 weeks of apple category data, KIKU® rocked the category for retailers,” said Lutz. “Among the top 15 apples, only six increased year over year sales. Among those, KIKU® apples had the second highest dollar growth rate at 64%.

Tim Welsh, Chief Horticulturist for Columbia Fruit Packers, reports that the KIKU® season will be launching early in response to strong retail demand for increased production. Columbia Fruit Packers, the primary U.S. license holder for KIKU®, aligned with growing partners Applewood Orchards in Michigan and Rice Fruit Company in Pennsylvania to help ramp up production quickly for retailers.

“All three licensed producers of KIKU® brand apples increased plantings based on strong feedback from retailers and consumers,” said Welsh. “It’s been tough to keep KIKU® on the shelves. Now with the 2015 harvest, total KIKU® production will have doubled from just two years ago.

John Rice, President of Rice Fruit Company in Pennsylvania says he is not surprised by the rapid success of KIKU®. “Our family has been growing apples here in Pennsylvania for seven generations,” said Rice. “We grow all kinds of apples and we’ve never seen anything like KIKU®. It’s simply the sweetest, best tasting apple we have ever grown.”

Scott Swindeman, Vice President of Applewood Orchards, Inc. in Michigan, reports that as KIKU® trees mature, quality has continued to improve. “Growers in Washington, Michigan and Pennsylvania are all reporting that this is probably the finest crop of KIKU® we’ve ever harvested. Color, condition and eating quality are excellent, so we’re excited about the early start to the season in time for the holidays.”

According to Lutz, apples like KIKU® are vital for retailers in continuing to respond to changing consumer purchase behavior while building a stronger apple category. “Nearly all of the major apple varieties had dollar declines at retail last year despite the large harvest” said Lutz.

“In a way, KIKU® is similar to Honeycrisp. The unique flavor profile allows for stronger pricing while trading consumers up to a more expensive purchase. This in turn drives sales dollars for retailers while bringing consumers back to the store sooner because of the outstanding eating experience.”

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