Honeycrisp offspring variety to reach 2,000 U.S. stores this season - FreshFruitPortal.com

Honeycrisp offspring variety to reach 2,000 U.S. stores this season

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Honeycrisp offspring variety to reach 2,000 U.S. stores this season

It may not have the renown of its forebear Honeycrisp, but Honeybear Brands' relatively new Pazazz apple variety is making an impact at retail while proving less finicky in the orchard for growers.

Don Roper

Don Roper

The volumes are quite small in the big scheme of the U.S. apple market, but according to VP of sales and marketing Don Roper, young orchards are coming into production and output - as is the case with apple trees - is on an exponential growth path.

"This is really our third year of going to market with Pazazz, and we’ll be in about 20 retailers in over 2,000 stores this year," Roper told www.freshfruitportal.com at the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit event in Orlando recently.

The cultivar is grown in Washington State, the Midwest, New York and Nova Scotia, and in each of those locations Honeybear is touting the fruit as local so it can be as fresh as possible for the end consumer.

"But the reality is we’re going to grow it in all those locations because it’s a national apple and has national appeal," he says.

The space for new apple varieties has become fairly saturated in North America, but with a targeted approach the Pazazz could claw its way into the market by tapping into demand for the Honeycrisp snap while appealing to different flavor preferences.

"It’s a brave new world out there with these new varieties. There are a bunch of new varieties that are coming, and I can tell you 99% of them aren’t going to make it," he said.

"You can’t kid yourself that just because you have a new variety or the club variety du jour, it has to pass the consumer test.

"If Mom doesn’t like this apple, don’t spend your time on it because it’s so expensive to put these orchards on the ground. That’s where we’ve done a lot of research at the consumer level to make sure this product is right," he said, adding retail introductions have been taking place at a grassroots level for the last few years.

But what exactly is it about Pazazz that makes Roper and his colleagues see so much potential? The answer lies partly in its parent, the Honeycrisp.

"When you talk to the guys in cultivar development who are really trying to grow that next stage apple, they're saying 'I want to take the genetics of the crunch of the Honeycrisp and put it into a new apple'," Roper said.

"So it's not necessarily the flavor; it's the texture. When you bite into it there's no softness to it, it's really crisp, it's fresh and there's a delicate cell structure inside where you bite into it and it cleaves off and snaps.

"That's what we’re trying to put into the next generation of Honeycrisp children."

He said the work then was to look for "different flavor profiles, different windows".

"Honeycrisp struggles to be a really good apple four or five months into the season because when it’s harvested its starch level is really low - it's almost nothing.

"It’s a great apple off the tree, the best apple in the world off the tree, but after four or five months in storage that kind of wanes and then you're left with a crispy apple, a pretty apple, but an apple with no flavor."

The question for the team at Honeybear Brands then was how to take that texture and put it in an apple with "longer legs".

"That's Pazazz. When we harvest Pazazz our starch level is a little higher, we have high brix, a good acid in there," Roper said, adding the cultivar was an open pollinated cross, meaning one parent was Honeycrisp and the other is uncertain.

"And as that sits in storage you give it a good month and a half and the starch are converting to sugars, it's getting that good blend of acid-starch-sugar brix mix, and then all of a sudden you have an exceptional apple that has the legs to go from November all the way to May.

"There’s such a complexity of Pazazz – it’s got a nice flavor in it, it’s got nice sweetness, it’s got a hint of acid and tart in it, and it’s really pretty. It snaps and it’s crispy, so they get an experience they’re not getting with other apples."

One of the issues the breeders have also sought to overcome with Pazazz is the cultivation difficulties associated with its ancestor.

"Every little issue that’s out there for growing an apple, the Honeycrisp has," Roper said.

"We want to make them more grower-friendly too. So does it have less bitter pit? Is it not going to be a biennial growing apple?

"It doesn’t work if you have a great apple that agronomically you can’t grow profitably, or it doesn’t go down a line, or it bruises, or has all those issues behind it."

With such strong demand in the U.S., Roper does not have any immediate export plans for the apple, although he is optimistic about the overseas sales potential of another Honeycrisp child currently known as 'Honeybear 42'.

"We call it BRS – big, red sweet. We think it’s a perfect fit for some of these Asian markets."

The apple does have an international presence however, albeit a small one in some test orchards in Chile.

"We’re doing our research down in Chile to see how that could come into play, and whether that provides us with the Southern Hemisphere component so that we can bring fruit in late summer with Pazazz.

But like Honeycrisp which has also been grown in Chile for several years now, the Pazazz's potential success in the Southern Hemisphere will be based on the same mantra as a property investment - location, location, location.

"Honeycrisp came out of Minnesota, and there was so much focus on it being a winter hardy variety because we have -20°F (-28°C) winters. That tree has got to be able to survive.

"That’s why when you grow Honeycrisp out in Washington in the southern regions, it’s so warm that you’re not going to replicate that Honeycrisp you’re going to see in northern Minnesota. It’s so site specific.

"It’s the same thing in Chile. Your traditional growing regions are a bit warmer, so you have to go find the growing regions for Honeycrisp, for Pazazz, these next generation varieties, where it’s cooler."



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