Surging yields and sales of Jazz apples have prompted The Oppenheimer Group to co-market the variety with Selah, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit Co.

“We’ve worked together on imported fruit for eight to 10 years, but this is the first time that we’re entering into a co-marketing arrangement,” said Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing at Rainier Fruit.

ENZA originated the Jazz variety. Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer markets for the New Zealand company.

Maturing trees and a better-than-expected harvest pushed Jazz production up from about 600,000 cases a year ago to 800,000, said David Nelley, apple and pear category director at Oppenheimer. The growth will help feed an export demand for Jazz, he said, that’s five times higher than last year.

“A lot of Jazz went into the ground four to five years ago,” Nelley said Nov. 24. “We’ve seen this growth coming. We’re going to tap out at about 1.2 million cases around 2014.”

“We’re five weeks into selling the deal and our Jazz year-to-date sales are 120% stronger than they were last year. Export’s a big part of that.”

Export demand for Jazz is growing in eastern Russia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and New Zealand, among other places. In Thailand, a prominent buyer is United Kingdom-based Tesco. New Zealand is the home of Jazz, but importers there are supplementing the local crop, Nelley said.

Fruit size is also up.

“Normally 60% are size 100 or smaller, but this year we seeing a bigger apple, more like an 88,” Nelley said. “We were pleasantly surprised. The northwest gala crop was a victim of weather. We feared the worst with Jazz but it kept growing right up to harvest. Fruit size has been fantastic.”

Snacker packs will be offered in 3- to 4-pound mesh bags, he said, but the child-sized apples are unlikely to be the focus of marketing efforts.

“We may not push it as hard as we have in the past,” Nelley said. “Frankly what we’re pushing is loose sales and a regular pack of size 88 or 100.” Snacker size is typically 125 or 138.

For Rainier Fruit, a co-marketing arrangement works particularly well with this variety.

“One of our warehouses, Allan Bros., is involved in growing and packing the Jazz apple, so it was a pretty convenient addition to our product mix,” Wolter said.

Washington-grown ENZA Pacific Rose and Envy, plus all New Zealand ENZA varieties, including Jazz, will continue to be available from Oppenheimer exclusively. Rainier Fruit will ship its Washington varieties – red and golden delicious, gala, fuji, braeburn, granny smith, Pink Lady, Cameo, jonagold, Lady Alice, Junami and honeycrisp.

Oppenheimer, Rainier partner on Jazz apples

Courtesy The Oppenheimer Group

Production of Jazz apples is up a third and demand, partly fueled by exports, is also on the rise, said David Nelley, apple and pear category director for The Oppenheimer Group.