Minnesota’s early “fan favorite” apple kicks off third season
Honeybear Brands, a grower, packer, shipper, and developer of premium apples, announced it will begin shipping its First Kiss variety as the first apple of the season. Developed through the University of Minnesota’s apple breeding program, this early variety was introduced in 2021 and is produced in Minnesota.
“As with any new variety, it takes a while to increase volume. We’re excited to see a much larger supply of First Kiss this season. While it sells out every year, we’re hopeful that more apples mean more shoppers get to enjoy this tasty variety,” says Don Roper, vice president of sales and marketing, Honeybear Brands.
Roper tells FreshFruitPortal.com that First Kiss, “started with some really good parents.” It is a result of crossing Honeycrisp with an early ripening apple (AA-44), which gives it a really good texture and look.
This first-to-market variety, which hits store shelves August 28, will be on the market until Christmas time.
“There just aren't a lot of great early apples, because of the heat they don’t have great texture and they’re softer, but with First Kiss, we finally got one with good texture and a nice flavor that can start supplying an empty apple pipeline at retail,” says Roper.
This does not only provide consumers with a strong product, but it allows retailers to lead with a “good strong apple” early in the season to create a consumer buying that will build their demand throughout the year, according to Roper.
Despite a couple of hailstorm events, midwest growing conditions have been very favorable for this year’s crop.
Markets for First Kiss
As it is just the third season for this apple variety, sales have been clustered mainly in the upper midwest. With increasing volumes, Honeybear Brands hopes to expand sales through the midwest and northeast to more retailers this year and in upcoming seasons.
In terms of expanding production beyond Minnesota, it is still too soon for producers to say, and the priority right now is to establish the market.
“First you want to create demand and then back it up with supply,” says Roper.
Developing new varieties
Honeybear Brands has developed new varieties for the last three decades.
“We commercialized Honeyscrip in Washington 27 years ago, and were starting to work on another variety called Honeymoon which is our all yellow variety, so that is really an important piece of who we are. We are the new variety guys,” notes Roper.
Honeybear has a global testing program for new varieties in Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Nova Scotia and Chile, allowing it to constantly develop new varietals on a global basis.