Planting a new, managed variety is a risk for growers because of the great investment they have to make and a lack of information about the variety, says Bob Brammer, president of Crane & Crane, a growing and packing operation at Brewster, Washington.
Crane & Crane has been involved in several controlled-variety programs. Brammer calculates that just to get the variety to a production level of 200,000 packed boxes requires an investment of about $3.5 million in the orchard, assuming development costs of $15,000 per acre. And, it’s almost certain that the commitment to join a program will be made before there’s enough information for the grower to feel comfortable with how the variety will perform in their environment.
In addition to the investment in the orchard, a packer who is part of a managed program like ENZA’s will need to invest around $1.2 million in packing and storage infrastructure to handle those 200,000 boxes, Brammer estimates.
The marketer has a much smaller investment and lower risk level, but faces the tough job of getting the new variety into the hands of retailers and consumers at a time when there is a staggering amount of choices already and far more fruit varieties than retailers will carry, he said during a Fruit School on Competitive Orchard Systems held in Washington recently.
"You have to get that apple out of your orchard into the hands of consumers, and that can be very difficult."
As an example, he described a Midwest store that had a prominent Honeycrisp display, along with smaller displays of other apples, including Jazz. The retailer was selling more Honeycrisp apples in one day, at $3.29 per pound, than the rest of the apple category in a whole week. Jazz was selling at $2.49 per pound.
"There was no reason for a consumer to pick that apple up unless they knew about it and sought it out," Brammer said. "You’ve got to get that apple into the position where it’s in the featured display, and it takes a solid, coordinated marketing effort to do that."