As the Christmas holiday approached, Domex Superfresh Growers marketing and communications manager Loren Queen toured California retail produce departments to gather early reactions to the company’s new Autumn Glory variety.
Harvesting of Autumn Glory began in mid-October. Superfresh Growers showed it at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit.
“We’ve shipped out a few thousand cases,” Queen said in mid-December. “I’m doing store checks to talk with produce managers, and shoppers to a lesser extent, to find out what the reception has been and how we can do better.”
Although the variety is out in small quantities, Yakima, Wash.-based Superfresh Growers gave most major U.S. markets a taste.
The variety took nearly a decade to develop.
“A lot goes into the decision to market an apple,” he said. “It has to be grower- and packer-friendly; it has to align well. It’s not, ‘Boy, this apple tastes great and that’s all there is to it.’ The one exception to that is Honeycrisp — it doesn’t matter how hard it is to grow, pack or ship, consumers will continue to pay a premium. You’re lucky to get 50% of the apples packed, but the returns are such as to make it worthwhile.”
Autumn Glory, a cross between a fuji and golden delicious, is not Honeycrisp, but it, too, will be marketed on taste.
“It’s sweet like a fuji and very firm, but there’s also a background flavor to it, like cinnamon or nutmeg,” Queen said. “It’s very much like you tasted an apple pie or apple cider.”
One thing that causes the most diehard of marketers to pause before sending a new variety out is the sheer number of varieties already on offer.
“You’ve got a lot of apple SKUs out there, but they’re in and out,” Queen said. “You’ve got to time it correctly. But Autumn Glory has a huge window of marketing opportunity. We could sell it in June and July if we wanted to.”
For first adopters, he said, the appeal is to be the new kid on the block.
“When there’s limited product early on, retailers have an opportunity to be unique and be the first to market a variety,” Queen said. “They can say they were the first in Chicagoland, L.A. or wherever, to have this apple. They can capitalize on that and drive traffic to their store as it gains popularity.”
Superfresh Growers also is doing consumer surveys for Autumn Glory on Facebook.