As supplies of regional apples decline towards the end of the fall season, premium-priced branded varieties like Kiku and Ambrosia can step in to meet consumer demand. According to the study, commissioned by Washington State apple supplier CMI Orchards, the percentage of total sales attributed to branded apples doubles between the fall and winter months, from 5% to 10%.
Distributors and retailers are encouraged to increase availability and store promotions of branded apples during these peak months.
As a leading apple supplier, CMI has an interest in promoting Kiku, Ambrosia and other premium, niche varieties. At the same time, the study reinforces a reality for many retailers: The ever-evolving apple category should be a year-round priority.
Recent years have seen growers branch out into all sorts of different apple varieties, including Jazz, SweeTango, SnapDragon, Opal and many more. And improved storage and distribution methods, along with a strong import market, mean many of these varieties are available throughout the year.
Recent years have shown that consumers are willing to pay more for a better-tasting apple. Honeycrisp, one of the fastest-growing apple varieties and fifth overall in popularity, according to the U.S. Apple Association, is a favorite due to its sweeter taste and firm texture.
There are many opportunities for retailers and distributors to sell more premium-priced apples, particularly during the traditionally down winter months. But produce suppliers and retailers need to make sure they’re supporting their supply with smart merchandising and customer education. Signage that highlights growing regions, tasting notes, culinary uses and other information is a must.
Grocers, too, should take care not to overwhelm customers with choice. SKU rationalization may be in order to identify those top performers that are worth stocking and promoting.