Red delicious’ reign as the No. 1 apple has been in jeopardy for quite a few years and has already come to an end, according to many in the industry.
“Normally over the course of the year we sell more red delicious, but to date we’ve sold as many galas as reds,” said John Rice, president of Gardners, Pa.-based Rice Fruit Co.
Rice Fruit Co. expects to be out of galas by March, allowing red delicious and golden delicious to pass the variety in overall volume for the season.
Red delicious is also a top seller for Sparta, Mich.-based Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc., but while Honeycrisp and gala are around, gala sells the most, followed by Honeycrisp and then red delicious. Riveridge is out of galas by April or May, and finished up with Honeycrisps before the end of the calendar year.
“Here in the U.S., gala has really taken over as the No. 1 apple in both volume and dollars,” said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash.
Gala may be the No. 1 apple in the U.S., said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash., but its reign could be interrupted by varieties offering consumers, and retailers, another option.
“There’s a lot of pressure on gala, so there’s been an increase in pricing. So we’re going to encourage people to look to other varieties,” Pepperl said. “If you make the category a little deeper, you can really profit from that.”
As more and more club varieties hit store shelves, it only adds competition for galas and fujis, as well as red and golden delicious and grannies, said Bob Mast, vice president of marketing for Wenatchee-based Columbia Marketing International Corp.
Category management has taken off in recent years, Pepperl said. With its retail accounts, Stemilt aims for at least one ad every three weeks, he said.
“Apples on promotion can reach 10% of produce sales,” Pepperl said.
The cross-section of apples coming from the Eastern U.S. tends to look a little different. The No. 1 apple out of New York is the macintosh, followed by empire, red delicious, gala, jonagold and rome, said Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association.
For Wolcott, N.Y.-based Fowler Bros. Inc., macintosh, empires and galas reign supreme. The company should have galas through April or May, macintosh through June or July, and empires until August.
As the apple category continues to diversity, it is only natural that some varieties won’t make the cut.
“In general, we’ve reduced the amount of braeburns down a little bit,” Pepperl said. “It’s still popular in the Midwest but diminishing in the rest of the country.”
Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash., plans to end the braeburn season early this year because the variety was affected pretty deeply by freezes in October, Queen said.
Raleigh, N.C,-based L&M Cos. is a little bit down on golden delicious as far as total volumes go, said John Long, sales manager in the Selah, Wash., office, but the company plans to adjust and be able to supply the apple all the way until next year’s crop.
“The varieties that we will have excellent supplies of are the four main, red delicious, granny, gala and fuji,” Long said.
L&M should be out of galas by the first of June, out of fujis by August, and have reds and grannies until the new crop, Long said.
Stemilt also carries a smaller crop of red delicious apples than other shippers and is cutting down a little on golden delicious.
Behind gala, fuji is the No. 2 apple for Stemilt, followed by Piñata, Honeycrisp and SweeTango, Pepperl said.
Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Greg Orchards & Produce is still heavy into red delicious, which move well with foodservice distributors, said Barry Winkel, general manager.
The company is also staying strong in golden delicious and gala, and markets a few jonagolds and jonathans.