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Not all high-flavor apple varieties impacted by consumers trading down

East Coast apple varieties SnapDragon and RubyFrost are both seeing an increased interest this season. “A smaller Washington crop likely played some role, but greater awareness and consumer interest in the varieties also factor in that growth,” says Jessica Wells with Crunch Time Apple Growers. Helpful in meeting consumer demand is increased production this season. SnapDragon production was up more than 20 percent over the 2022 crop year. “RubyFrost production was also up, but what was put in storage to pack for retailers was equal to last season,” commented Wells.

While consumers are trading down on apple varieties due to price increases, Crunch Time is not noticing that trend with these two high-flavor varieties. “Despite the higher cost than traditional varieties, a high-flavor variety with a higher price tag is actually an equal or better value,” said Wells. She explains that if a consumer buys 2 lbs. of a traditional variety at $1.49/lb. but their family eats only 1.5 lbs. because they don’t really enjoy them, they’ve actually paid $2.00/lb., which is pretty close to the average price for SnapDragon and RubyFrost and there is no waste because consumers eat them all. In addition, high-flavor varieties encourage healthy snacking. For SnapDragon and RubyFrost prices are up about 14 percent and seven percent respectively. “This is reflective of pricing for the industry as a whole with growing and packing expenses being up significantly. In fact, costs are up more than our prices increased.”

SnapDragon apples no display at Whole Foods and Wegmans in the Buffalo, NY area.

Window of availability
The window of availability is different for both varieties. SnapDragon is available immediately after harvest in September through May in a typical year. “The variety has moved extremely well this year, and we anticipate being out well ahead of May, apart from a few exceptions,” said Wells. In a few instances, plans were made with retailers ahead of time to have supply later in the season. RubyFrost on the other hand is available from November through June or July. While the variety is mostly harvested mid-to-late October and then placed in storage, some growers decide to let the apples stay on the trees a bit longer and harvest them to go straight to the grocery store in early November, with peak marketing and availability in December or January through spring.      

Higher production numbers also mean a greater distribution outside of the typical Northeast footprint. “At one point in the season, SnapDragon could be found in 43 states.” RubyFrost is making a name for itself in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast. “Distribution outside these regions is limited, although there will be some availability in the Upper Midwest in the coming weeks.”

Close-up of SnapDragon apple SnapDragon at Costco in Columbus, OH.

Buffalo Bills
SnapDragon was the Official Apple of the Buffalo Bills this season. “It was the first season and the partnership proved to be a great way to raise awareness for SnapDragon apples, not just in our region, but amongst Buffalo Bills fans across the country,” said Wells. Crunch Time Apple Growers is making plans for next season with the Buffalo Bills, but in the meantime, it has agreed to sponsor former Bills player, Hall of Famer Andre Reed’s annual golf tournament during the off-season. The tournament helps fund reading programs at Boys & Girls clubs across the United States.

RubyFrost consumer marketing efforts are also stepping up with a focus on geographic areas where RubyFrost apples are available at multiple retailers. “One notable partnership is sponsorship of the APP (Association of Pickleball Professionals) Tour NYC Open in May.

RubyFrost and SnapDragon on display at a Top store.

For more information:
Jessica Wells
Crunch Time Apple Growers
Tel: 716-300-8522

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