Columbia Marketing International has begun shipping imported Kiku apples.

The New Zealand Kiku season succeeds the short domestic season for Kikus, which Wenatchee, Wash.-based Columbia Marketing has shipped since 2008, according to a company news release.

Demand for Kikus, known for their sweetness, juiciness, ruby-red color and crunchy flesh, has been growing every year, said Bob Mast, Columbia Marketing’s president.

“It’s been exciting to watch both our production of the Kiku grow as well as the loyal following we are seeing from consumers,” Mast said in the release. ”We contribute a great deal of our success to our retail partners who are sharing the Kiku apple in demos at their stores and allowing people to see for themselves that this quite possibly may be the sweetest apple they have ever tasted.”

For its domestic Kiku crop this season, Columbia Marketing introduced a 2-pound grab-and-go pouch bag. That pack is also being used for New Zealand Kikus, Mast said.

In 2006, Wenatchee-based Columbia Fruit Packers Inc. gained exclusive rights to grow and market Kiku apples in North America, and Columbia Marketing was tapped to handle U.S. sales.