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Good summer conditions bring up sugar, sizes in Oneonta apples

Shipments of early Galas on Aug. 29 led the way for Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers’ 2011 apple season, and Dan Wohlford, national sales representative for the Wenatchee, WA-based grower-shipper, said quality looks superior this year.

“Mother Nature really helped us out, and weather was very good for bringing sugar and sizes up,” Mr. Wohlford said Aug. 30.

“Goldens, Grannies, Jonagolds, Honeycrisps, Red Delicious and Fuji should get started in mid-September. Braeburns and Cameo will start in early October. And Pink Lady comes in late October,” he said.

As the apples continue to size, Mr. Wohlford said the profile appears to be “shaping up to be average.”

Varietals continue to gain popularity with consumers, and he said the volume for Honeycrisp continues to grow in response to that demand.

“The Honeycrisp is growing in volume, and other than that variety, we’re looking for volume fairly consistent with what we experienced last year.”

While no new varieties were introduced this season, Mr. Wohlford said, “Jeff Cleveringa, head of our research and development, is experimenting with four new ‘test’ varieties that are show promise.”

In terms of physical expansion, Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers installed a new packing line at its Quincy, WA, facility. Mr. Wohlford said it is the second line at the plant, and it is “greatly enhancing our efficiencies there.”

With the onset of apple season and kids returning to school coinciding, Oneonta Starr Ranch developed a promotions campaign that brings the two events together in “applesnaQ.”

Using eye-catching and kid-friendly graphics, the company targets young consumers with a healthy lifestyle and diet message, although the concept reaches out to all ages.

“The idea behind it is to remind consumers that apples are a great snack item for their on-the-go lifestyle. We have tote bins and tote bags that feature kids going back to school, giving parents the thought that apples make a great item for school lunches.”

ApplesnaQ will run through the season, Mr. Wohlford said.

“The school bus bins will work in-store all through the school year,” he said, adding that the campaign is being used by retailers nationwide.

“We have customers across the country using the tote bins and bags. They are very excited about the way consumers are connecting with the graphics,” Mr. Wohlford said.

He added, “The tote bins also have QR or quick-response codes on them so when a consumer scans the code with a smartphone, they are directed to our web site to learn more about apples. Soon the QR codes will have other information such as short videos talking about taste, selection storage and more.”

Summing up the new season, Mr. Wohlford said indicators are good.

“We see a crop with great potential,” he said. “Color is as good as it has ever been for this time of year. Type on the apples is looking real good too.”