U.S.: FirstFruits Marketing set for first Opal apple exports
The exclusive marketer of the golden Opal apple in the U.S. is planning to carry out the first ever exports from the country during the 2016-17 season, as volumes approach peak levels.
Speaking to www.freshfruitportal.com at the New York Produce Show and Conference that was held in the Big Apple this week, a representative of FirstFruits Marketing of Washington said the export process was 'currently in motion'.
"We're currently only selling in the U.S. and Canada, and this is the first year that we are going to export some," category manager Dennis Jackson said.
However, he said negotiations were still underway to determine which markets the Czech-bred variety would be shipped to, with the season running from October through May.
While Jackson said exports may become an important component of the business in the future, they would not outstrip domestic sales.
"It will be a part of the business, but the North American part of the business will be the majority," he said.
Production of the variety - which is grown exclusively in the U.S. by FirstFruits Marketing's partner Broetje Orchards - has been increasing significantly over recent years.
"We started about five years ago with the Opal...and we’re now approaching a million boxes a season. So we’re coming to the peak now," he said.
"It’s very well received in retail, and now foodservice is also becoming very interested in the apple for processing, so it’s actually working in the full circle. It’s doing very, very well.
"We may grow another 10-20% and then level off, absorb the industry with it, and see where we are. It won’t be a full-season apple and when it season ends we already have people asking when it will coming again, so we’re trying to keep that demand there."
Education remains key in the company's marketing strategy, given many consumers' pre-conceived negative ideas about golden apples.
"100% education is needed - we’re educating the consumer and we’re educating the retailer," he said.
"It's a very crunchy apple, and as you look at the apple it’s got some russeting on the top - that’s natural for it, and occasional lenticels on it are natural too."