As excitement for new apple varieties continues to grow, some shippers have committed fully to the “other” category.
David Nelley, apple and pear executive category director for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, said the company has found success in staying away from most of the traditional apple varieties.
“We’re not caught up in the commodity apple game, and all three varieties we have are really performing on taste and flavor,” Nelley said. “There is so much excitement around those ‘other’ category apples.”
Oppy has decided to focus on managed varieties, meaning there are restrictions on who can grow the apple and where.
“They are really managing the supply side to ensure consistency. We’re excited to be a part of these varieties,”
The company markets Jazz, an apple variety that has recently won two awards for its great flavor.
In the United Kingdom, a recent blind taste test recently named Jazz apples the first, second and third prizes.
“Several growers entered this variety into the contest and the judges liked Jazz the best and ranked those entries in the top three categories,” Nelley said.
Then, in the U.S., Thrillist website went to Whole Foods and ranked its top apple varieties, naming Jazz as the No. 1 option for flavor.
Nelley said the variety is selling well, with 30% of the crop already gone. He expects to offer U.S.-grown Jazz apples through the May and then switch to imported supply from Chile and New Zealand.
Envy, another of the company’s apple offerings, is currently 40% sold, Nelley said.
“We’re trying to limit sales a bit to help it last, but we won’t have enough U.S.-grown apples until the New Zealand Envy’s begin in June,” Nelley said.
The company has really supported these apples with marketing and promotional materials. A new website was launched in October for Envy.
“We’ve done a lot of online advertising, both through traditional mediums and on Facebook or other targeted advertising,” Nelley said.
There is also a strong export demand for Envy apples, which the West Coast port slowdown has pinched some.
“As things start to move faster, we’ve been able to get more volume to Asia,” Nelley said.
The company’s third variety, Pacific Rose, is less well-known, a trait Nelley explains by the fact the variety is exported so heavily.
“We will probably send 50% of it to Asia this year,” he said.
Nelley expects the sweet apple grown in Washington state will be shipping through May.