Practically every apple variety will be available in higher volumes this year from Michigan because of the large crop, but the state’s growers are focusing on growing volumes of what they think are the best on the market.
“Some older varieties are going to become less important in the mix,” said Pat Chase, sales and field representative for Jack Brown Produce Inc., Sparta, Mich.
“That’s a good thing. We have a lot of young plantings that our growers have invested in.”
The newer varieties — galas, fuji, jonagold and Honeycrisp — are at the top of that list for most growers.
Applewood Orchards Inc. is involved in a couple of managed varieties that will be picking up in volume the next couple years, said Scott Swindeman, vice president and sales manager of the Deerfield, Mich.-based company.
SweeTango is one of them, a project of Pepin Heights Orchards Inc., Lake City, Minn., and the Next Big Thing cooperative.
The company is also a sublicensed grower-packer of the Kiku apple, for which Columbia Marketing International Corp., Wenatchee, Wash., holds the North American license.
“It’s a fuji apple but with much higher sugar content,” Swindeman said.
Barry Winkel, general manager of Greg Orchards & Produce Inc., Benton Harbor, Mich., said his company is planting more galas, as well as a few Honeycrisps.
“My guys are staying pretty stable, but they’re putting a few more galas, fujis in the ground,” said Roger Anthony, owner of Lake Michigan Growers Marketing LLC, Greenville, Mich.
The trend in Michigan, like the national trend, is toward more galas, Honeycrisps and other new varieties, and fewer red delicious, said Owen Glei, president and part owner of Glei’s Inc., Hillsdale, Mich.
“We have a lot of the new varieties,” said Tom Curtis, president of Michigan Fresh Marketing, Belding. “Galas, jonagolds, and Honeycrisp are really coming into production now. We’ll have a lot more volume.”
Tom Pletcher, vice president of sales and marketing for Belleharvest Sales Inc., Belding, Mich., said there are certainly more Honeycrisp on the market, but there are also more of the older varieties, such as red delicious.
Riveridge Produce Marketing, Sparta, is going into its second year carrying red prince and ambrosia apples, and plans to continue growing those programs, said Don Armock, president.
Armock said he expects the company to see up to 18% volume increases year over year for the next five years because of lots of new plantings and some replanting.
Riveridge’s biggest increases should be in galas, Honeycrisps, fujis and jonagolds, Armock said.
“This is going to be a big year for the Honeycrisp,” Armock said. “And you’ll see very substantial increases in jonagolds this season.”
James Scherer, owner of Scherer Fruit Farms, Bloomingdale, said he doesn’t grow any Honeycrisps, but wishes he did.
“I still think about it,” Scherer said.
Scherer said his niche, in addition to the staple varieties, is empire apples, which he harvests early for the caramel apple producers.
“They like them pretty solid, pretty tart,” Scherer said.
Scherer packs for SMP Marketing LLC, Eau Claire, Mich., and most of his apples end up in retail outlets, Scherer said.