Fresh-cut apple processors use more than 3 million bushels each year. Although that number is increasing, it still represents less than 2% of the domestic crop. With volume significantly below average in New York and Michigan this year, the race is on for Washington apples.

“The processor market is keenly aware of the shortage this year, and we’ve begun to hear and see the response to that situation already with various entities around the country coming to us looking for supply,” Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Yakima, Wash.-based Domex Superfresh Growers, said Aug. 8. “The processors are not experiencing a slowdown in demand.”

John Long, sales and operations director in the Union Gap, Wash., office of Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., said high demand from processors would keep smaller-sized fruit moving.

“That will also keep a lot of the marginal quality and smaller sizes off the market,” he said.

Tony Freytag, national marketing director for Crunch Pak Sliced Apples, Cashmere, Wash., said fresh-cut producers have seen their raw product costs rise.

"There is concern this will put the slices business in a tight spot. If prices go up too far, this could put some products out of the reach of value-minded consumers,” Freytag said.

Crunch Pak typically sources about 80% of its raw product from Washington.

Brianna Shales, communications director for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers LLC, said she hopes fresh-cut processors can keep their products on retail shelves and in restaurants because sliced apples have been shown to build overall apple consumption.

“Pricing will cause higher retails, which is unavoidable,” she said. “We see people from all over the country scouring the state of Washington looking for supply for this coming year.”