U.S.: Premium apple varieties "bucking the trend", says Oppy
While 2018 was a somewhat challenging year overall for apples in the U.S., with sales in both volume and value down slightly year-on-year, fruit marketer Oppy has noted that the premium apple category is growing from strength to strength.
David Nelley, vice president of categories and global exports for the Canada-headquartered company - which markets four of the U.S.'s top 10 premium apples by sales value, Jazz, Envy, Ambrosia and Pacific Rose - explained that new flavors were driving growth and proving hugely popular with consumers.
Recently released IRI data for sales up to early December paint a picture for how last year compared to 2017 as a whole, he said.
"For all apples, dollar sales were down 3%, and pounds were down 3%," he said. "[But] premium apples were actually up in dollar sales by 12.5% and up in volume by 19%."
"So apples have faced some headwinds in 2018, but the premium apple space is the one that’s really working, and that’s the one where consumers are being introduced to new flavors. What we’re seeing here is these premium apples are bucking the trend."
Leading the premium apple category is Honeycrisp, which was up 23% in value and 34% in volume, now approaching the US$1 billion annual sales mark, while Pink Lady took the number two spot.
Ambrosia, Jazz and Envy took the third, four and fifth positions, respectively. Envy - which, like Jazz, is owned by Oppy's New Zealand-based stakeholder T&G Global - in particular stood out for achieving the highest growth rate in the premium apple category, registering a 62% rise in volume and 44% in value.
"[Envy] is really getting out there to a lot more retail outlets and reaching a lot more consumers," Nelley said. "This market talks a lot about Honeycrisp, but by contrast, Honeycrisp volume sold only grew by 34% because it's just not available from the Southern Hemisphere with the same volume, whereas Envy and Jazz are available year round."
So far this season around 30% of the Jazz and Envy harvests have been sold, with lots of marketing activity due to take place over the coming months.
"We see a lot of promotions across North America during this time with the aim to be sold out by the end of May, when retailers and consumers can see fresh crop Envy and Jazz from Chile and New Zealand, which are growing to exactly the same standards as USA-grown Envy and Jazz," he said.
"So, unlike other premium apples, Envy and Jazz have truly consistent grade standards - and therefore appearance and flavor - which is present on a 12-month basis. T&G have invested heavily in educating growers, in establishing and maintaining growing standards on a very tightly controlled basis."