The apple crop in Ontario is up about 1/2 percent over last year and about 15 percent up over the five-year average. “Ontario, Washington and Michigan have great crops while New York and Quebec have some some damage I think,” says Ken Lyons of the Blue Mountain Fruit Company in Thornbury, Ontario.“ While New York and Quebec are a bit lighter, there’s more than enough inventory with Washington’s record crop this year and for us in Ontario. We’ve had two good years in a row.”
Ontario has had two good years of apple crops in a row.
This follows a favorable growing season without hail or frost impacting the crop, which had been seen in seasons past. “This year we were very fortunate,” Lyons says.
Along with its orchard, Blue Mountain Fruit has several growers across Ontario that supply it with fruit and it ships a number of varieties. “The older varieties such as Spartan, Cortland and those varieties, are under pressure from the retailers to start phasing them out and move more towards current varieties,” says Lyons. “There are so many great varieties coming out from around the world and the retailers are looking at updating their selection to consumers.”
Its notable variety, Red Prince, already saw a 30 percent bump in volume in 2022 and this year, it’s seeing another 30 percent as well. “That’s due to the grower agreements that we put together several years ago and those crops are now starting to produce,” Lyons adds.
The family behind Blue Mountain Fruit.
Long-term variety plan
Blue Mountain Fruit is also working on a number of new varieties that are specific to industry needs rather than simply launching a new apple. “We’re using a category management approach towards introducing any new apples that it must meet a certain category need,” says Lyons. “Our nursery is making sure that we can grow them for a few years and then we’ll work with retailers to launch them into production. It’s several years away.”
As for demand, it’s strong, particularly given the value buy that apples can be for households. “Looking ahead, we’re not seeing any difference in demand for the foreseeable future. We would expect that demand will continue to follow seasonal trends similar to previous years until the consumer market starts picking up regarding inflation and the cost of living,” Lyons says. At the same time, there are also signs of pressure from Washington to get rid of excess inventory in Canada more intensely this year.
There are also signs of pressure from Washington to get rid of excess apple inventory in Canada more intensely this year.
That said, retail pricing on apples has stayed relatively flat with retailers under pressure to maintain their pricing. “We’ll see what happens with costing as the inventories of different growers pile up because it’s such a fantastic year. The inventories are high and at some point, we’ll have to see where the pricing goes as they get close to finishing their non-controlled atmosphere (CA) sales,” says Lyons.