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Applewood focused on apple varieties

Applewood Fresh Growers LLC is distinguishing itself with planning for the “next best managed varieties,” according to Nick Mascari, Applewood’s president. The Michigan grower-packer-shipper is testing apple varieties in the ground as part of the work toward serving the trade with the best of oncoming special new apple varieties.

“We are really looking at making a statement with managed varieties and higher-end apples.” Mascari said that, for competitive reasons, “I can’t be specific” on what is being tested, but “we have five potential new varieties in test blocks.”

If those are not ready for production now, “they will be further out. We are on the forefront for new sport varieties, and new strains of old varieties, atop having new managed varieties.”

Antonia-appleAntonia Mascari was recently promoted to become the vice president of marketing for Applewood Fresh Growers LLC.With this, Applewood’s sales and marketing arm is “using more data to guide growers and customers” toward the best of the apples that will be coming from Michigan.

By tracking data from all growing regions on apple sales for 52 weeks a year, growers can have the best information for planning the timing of new plantings and “we can help guide our customers to have the right assortment at the right times in their stores.”

Mascari said USDA statistical data shows “We are the second largest grower-shipper in Michigan. Period. Our growth in volume is due to our team. We are pleased to be the leading sales company in Michigan.”

“Our quality and volume will be up this year,” he continued. “Our volume is up 10 percent across the board, except on HoneyCrisp.”

Mascari said he is pleased about the growth and expects “to have a great year, both crop- and sales-wise.”

Applewood will be packing at its own Grand Rapids plant, as well at Elite in Comstock Park, MI. The firm is also working for the first time with a grower-packer- shipper in Hart, MI.  

Additional news this year, Mascari noted, is that “Stemilt has given rights to Applewood Fresh to grow and market Rave in the Midwest.” Rave is a new apple variety developed at the University of Minnesota. It is a cross-pollination between the HoneyCrisp and MonArk apple varieties. Promotional material for the variety indicates “biting into the Rave apple is like biting into the well-known HoneyCrisp but with extra juice and zing!”

“It’s a great apple,” Mascari said. This summer, the Rave will come onto the market about Aug. 19. For Applewood, immature Rave trees “are producing at a small level and we are planting more trees as we speak.”

Applewood’s SweeTango and Gala shipping will commence in the first week of September. HoneyCrisp from Applewood will begin about Sept. 13. For Applewood, the HoneyCrisp volume will be only about 60 percent of what it was a year ago.

Mascari said Michigan’s HoneyCrisp volume will be much lower this year than it was in 2018. Until now, HoneyCrisp in Michigan has tended to produce greater volumes in alternate years. He expects this to be decreasingly true as trees mature in coming years.

In late September, Applewood will be shipping Jonathan, Empire, Fuji, Golden Delicious and Jonagolds.

“Then, going into November, we’ll have EverCrisp, Kiku and Kanzi.” Cripps Pink is the last variety to be harvested by Applewood. That picking is expected to commence Nov. 4.

The strength of the Applewood sales team has been bolstered this year.

Earlier this year, Brian Coates left his position as a produce executive with Michigan-based Meier retail chain to become vice president of sales for Applewood.

The firm also acquired salesman Tom Labbe from Riveridge.

Furthermore, Antonia Mascari has been promoted to be Applewood’s vice president of marketing. She is responsible for establishing marketing goals to ensure profitability of products and services; and has spearheaded all Applewood Fresh advertising efforts through the development and execution of a new creative brand and marketing plan.

She indicated: “Telling each variety’s unique story is at the core of what I do.”

Antonia Mascari and her co-worker and brother, Nick Mascari, were born in the produce business. Their father, Mike Mascari, established a strong national reputation at Indianapolis Fruit Co.