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Crunch Time.

Byline: Jennifer Strailey

New varieties and high-graphic packaging are driving growth in apples.

Apples have become one of the most flavorful and colorful categories in produce, thanks to a host of new varieties and dynamic packaging solutions that are proving to be a compelling combination year-round.

"The 2-pound high-graphic pouch bag has been such a success because it offers a unique merchandising opportunity," asserts Steve Lutz, VP of marketing for Columbia Marketing International (CMI), in Wenatchee, Wash. "It's the only segment of the apple business that's growing. Retailers are beginning to merchandise pouch bags differently than they have in the past -- building upright displays that play off the power of the packaging."

CMI offers a number of top-selling apple varieties in the pouch bags, including Ambrosia and Kiku. "Ambrosia has really been a hot apple," notes Lutz, who points to Nielsen data indicating that it was the ninth-highest-selling apple for the last 52 weeks; in the meantime, Kiku is No. 15 and climbing in popularity, and "Kanzi is coming on strong," he adds.

The new varieties in the market range from sweet to tart, with fans all along the spectrum. Lutz sees the most desirable new varieties as those better adapted to withstand the trials of distribution while retaining their integrity.

CMI has several product rollouts this fall. It's expanding its Daisy Girl Organics line with Kiku and Kanzi apples. Additionally, one of CMI's growers has received a license to sell Jazz, Envy and Pacific Rose apples for the first time, starting with this fall's crop.

The Next Big Thing (NBT) Cooperative, in Alden, N.Y., has also met with success using the high-graphic pouch bag for its Swee-Tango apples. NBT will launch a new design for its pouch and box, too.

"We want to make sure the first thing people see is the SweeTango brand," explains Theron Kibbe, of NBT. The old packaging included a brand statement and taste profile, which have been eliminated. "When we created the initial packaging, SweeTango was new, but now that it has a following, we just have to shout the name," notes Kibbe.

Seasonal Sellers

Consumers not only crave more variety from the apple category, they also want more choices year-round.

Minneapolis-based Honeybear Brands, which launched Pazazz apples in more than 350 new retail locations across North America in the first quarter of 2016, reports selling out in record time in many markets. The season for Pazazz is December through March.

"Pazazz hits the stand when other apple varieties have lost a lot of their luster and flavor," says Don Roper, VP, sales and marketing. "We consistently heard from [consumers] how it is difficult to find a good apple early in the year."

Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based Giumarra is looking for a bite of the summer apple market with Diva brand apples, which hit stores last month. Exclusively grown in New Zealand orchards, Diva is a bright-red premium apple with high flavor and aroma.

This marks the second season for the Diva apple from Giumarra, which is expecting larger volumes this year due to an excellent growing season in New Zealand.

"The 2-pound high-graphic pouch bag has been such a success because it offers a unique merchandising opportunity. It's the only segment of the apple business that's growing."

--Steve Lutz, Columbia Marketing International
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Title Annotation:apples marketing
Author:Strailey, Jennifer
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2016
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