New York growers getting set for market push on new varieties

08/21/2014 01:25:00 PM
Jim Offner

New York will take a major step toward trying out two of its newest varieties — Snapdragon and Rubyfrost — on the market during the upcoming Eastern apple season.

The bright red Snapdragon, a “fall-market” apple that is being touted for its crunch, sweetness and appeal to children, will hit retail stores on a test basis this fall, said Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association in Fishers.

Rubyfrost, a “winter” variety, was tried out last year on a test basis in Hannaford and Wegmans stores across New York and a new Tops store in Orchard Park, N.Y., according to the New York Apple Growers Association, which helped to develop the varieties with Cornell University.

Developers say the Rubyfrost, which ripens later in the fall and “stores well,” is comparable to the empire and granny smith varieties.

Snapdragon was derived, in part, from the Honeycrisp variety.

More new varieties are on the way, Allen said.

“There are some new varieties in the system at Cornell, some based on the success of these two,” he said. “I think this program is just going to continue to provide new varieties.”

Allen said New York has produced “dozens” of varieties over the last two decades.

“Retailers are keen on new varieties, looking for something to bring in and highlight,” he said.

In May 2010, Cornell forged a partnership for a “managed release” with the New York Apple Growers Association to establish an exclusive licensing agreement in North America for the Snapdragon and Rubyfrost. Growers pay royalties on trees purchased, acreage planted and fruit produced, and the income is used to market the new varieties and support Cornell’s apple-breeding program.

The first trees were planted in farmers’ orchards in 2011, and that has grown to more than 400 acres, Allen said.

Developers hoped both would compete strongly against other major varieties by 2015. Allen said they may not meet the planners’ schedule, but the varieties are progressing.

Lee Peters, vice president of sales and marketing with Wolcott, N.Y.-based Fowler Bros Inc., said he expects the varieties to gain a following, but slowly.

“To be honest, there’s very limited volume of both,” he said. “It’s going to be another year or two before it’s impactful in the marketplace.”

But, he said, marketers believe the varieties will pick up momentum.

“We believe they’re good varieties and we’re excited, but it’s too soon to see what kind of impact they’ll have,” he said.


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