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(Geraldine Warner/Good Fruit Grower)

Twenty years ago, Red Delicious apple production peaked in Washington at more than 60 million packed boxes. Just three varieties—Red and Golden Delicious and Granny Smith—accounted for 90 percent of the total crop.

Since then, Washington’s apple crop has doubled, Red Delicious production has halved, and more than 24 apple varieties are being commercially grown, packed, and shipped. Many of those are managed varieties that can only be produced by specific producers in limited quantities.

Demand for club apple varieties in the marketplace is as high as it’s ever been, says Tate Mathison, a sales leader at Stemilt Growers, Inc., Wenatchee.

“Every retailer wants something different,” he said.

However, they will only feature a club variety for a few weeks before replacing it with another one, he warned, and growers need to be rewarded for the high capital investment it takes to plant an orchard. Retailers want to sell one club apple and do it well, and then rotate it out.

“If you let it linger and it ages on the shelf and the customer has a bad experience, it’s difficult to get demand back up,” Mathison said.

“You just have to grow the right amount for the right time and the right reason, and if you don’t have a plan around when and where and how, it could be quite difficult,” he warned.