Columbia Marketing International LLC plans to start shipments of U.S.-grown new crop Kiku apples in the second week of January, and continue through March.
“Overall we are very pleased with the flavor profile of this year’s Kiku,” vice president of marketing Steve Lutz said in a news release.
So far, the company reports strong sales despite an average retail price about 40% higher than the category average for apples — $2.32 versus $1.64.
Sweetness and coloring on the red-striped apple are both excellent, Lutz said.
Availability of the seasonal variety has been increasing annually and may eventually lead to a year-round program. Besides Wenatchee, Wash.-based Columbia Marketing International, U.S. producers include Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa.; and Applewood Orchards Inc., Deerfield, Mich.
Kiku is also sourced from the Southern Hemisphere in the spring and summer.
Last season, in the first quarter of 2014, sales of Kiku rose more than 300% between Jan. 1 and Feb. 1, according to Nielsen Perishables Group data, and did not fall back to early January levels until the first week of April.
CMI gained rights to the Kiku in 2006. The company imports the apple from New Zealand in the summer before switching to Washington.
The original variety branded Kiku is the brak variety. There is also a newer strain, Fubrak.