Weather has been a wild card for Washington’s apple growers. But Chuck Sinks, president of Sage Fruit Co. in Yakima, WA, said the company will market an increased fruit volume this season.
“We had a cool, wet spring in Washington,” Mr. Sinks said Aug. 25. “Harvest is going to be 10 to 14 days later this year as a result of the cool spring weather. As far as growing conditions for the production season, we have not started apple harvest yet. But conditions have been favorable the last couple months.”
Acreage planted to apples has increased this season. “We continue to try and plant varieties in the right microclimates to maximize flavor and increase acreage on varieties consumers are demanding,” Mr. Sinks stated. “We are marketing all the mainline and varietal apples grown in Washington state as well as club varieties like the Sonya and Rosalynn. Honeycrisp, of course, is still very popular.”
According to Mr. Sinks, overall volume is also expected to show an uptick. “The weather-related events may [affect] sizing a little bit this season,” he went on to say. “There may be more bag opportunities this year compared to last year.”
Sage Fruit expected to begin its harvest with earlier varieties such as Golden Supreme and Gala the last week of August or early September. “We will finish in November with Pink Lady, the last variety we will harvest,” he added. “This year is a little bit unique because it will go down as one of the latest apple harvests on record.”
The compressed harvest will result in a shorter marketing window. “Running a couple weeks late on every variety takes a couple of weeks away from sales opportunities,” Mr. Sinks noted.
The company exports apples to a few customers. “Our percentage changes each year depending on the crop,” he went on to say. “It is usually less than 10 percent. But we have some really good export customers that count on our label.”
Sage Fruit has made some modifications to its display bins and point-of-sale materials to include quick-response codes. “This should give us the ability to connect with more consumers buying our products,” Mr. Sinks said. The company just launched a new Sage Fruit mobile web site. “It allows customers to utilize our new [quick-response] codes and go straight to our mobile site to get recipes while they are shopping or just learn about a variety while they are in the store,” he added.
Last season, the company completed its transition to PLU stickers complete with barcodes.
This is the inaugural season for Sage Fruit’s Crazy Apples promotion. “These will be Fuji or Pink Lady apples that pack some additional natural flavors such as bubble gum, tropical blast and pomegranate-grape,” Mr. Sinks said. “The packaging is kid-friendly, and this will come in single units or a four-pack. We are very excited about this opportunity and new product, as the kids who have tasted them love them. Look for them in your supermarkets starting in October.”
The company’s partnership with NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne continues to be a winner. “We will have promotions in cities where races are held complete with p-o-s materials, Kasey Kahne apple bags and bins,” Mr. Sinks said. “We will continue our Kids in Force program for the second season after receiving positive feedback on the program last year.”
Mr. Sinks said additional promotions will roll out during the course of the season.