Who’s pushing red strains?
Yakima, Washington, grower-packer Dave Allan doesn't think consumers are the ones demanding redder apples.
The worldwide popularity of Gala, a variety that originally was an apple with orange-red stripes and a cream-yellow background, would seem to prove that red color does not beat eating quality.
Although there is concern that Gala could fall into the same color trap that Red Delicious apples fell in, the two varieties are not really comparable. Gala is a better apple than Red Delicious, Allan said, pointing out that market demand for Gala continues to expand, whereas it's not been expanding for Red Delicious.
Scott McDougall of McDougall and Sons, Inc., has also heard the argument that the redder Gala strains, harvested in fewer picks than older strains, can result in variability in taste. "But that hasn't shook out in the market," he said. "I've never heard of complaints on Gala coming back that the apples don't eat good."
Allan believes that under the current system, demand for product is based on the retailer's perception of what the consumer wants. Demand is not necessarily coming directly from the consumer. The retailer is in the middle, standing between the supplier (grower) and consumer.
But change is soon coming, Allan said. The current system will change once miniature bar codes are placed on the PLU stickers of apples, technology that is developed but not yet adopted within the apple industry, he explains. Scanning the bar code will allow the retailer to measure how fast apples move off the shelf and whether consumers are coming back to buy the same apples again after three or four days.
"Then, the communication between supplier and the consumer becomes direct," Allan said, adding that a supplier will also be able to find out more easily and quickly if a product has acceptance.