The 2020 Apple Crop Outlook & Marketing Conference is being held online Aug. 20–21. 

The first day of the 2020 Apple Crop Outlook & Marketing Conference is a wrap. Jack Bobo, CEO of Futurity, gave the opening presentation: “Why We Fear the Food We Eat.”

Around the world, modern agriculture is feeding more people than it ever has, while using resources more efficiently than it did in 1950, or even 1980. Food has never been safer, but consumers today think the state of food safety and health is worse than it’s ever been, he said. 

There’s an obvious disconnect between food producers and consumers, and growers and others in the industry need to find ways to cross that bridge. Bobo gave some advice:

—You can’t just beat people up with science; you have to lead them to knowledge. People are perfectly happy to absorb new information, but you need to change how you communicate. 

—Farmers and others need to be better storytellers. Stop telling people what you do; tell them why you do it.

—When the public has a false belief, it’s often easier to cater to that belief than challenge it. Businesses, however, often need to give customers what they need rather than what they want.

—But how do you give consumers the information they need without scaring them? You need to be worthy of the consumer’s trust. Engage with them. Listen to what they care about.

—Do not trust your brain. It can lead to wrong outcomes. Do a better job recognizing your own confirmation bias. “We’re good at seeing bias in others, but not in ourselves,” Bobo said.


Darren Seifer, an analyst with the NPD Group, discussed how consumer shopping habits have changed since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. 

—The pandemic has accelerated some trends that already were in place. Consumers are eating at home more and not going to restaurants.

—Before the pandemic, digital ordering made up about 5 percent of restaurant transactions. Now, it’s about 20 percent. The industry expected that level of growth to take about five years. Instead, it took only a few months.

—Members of Generation Z are entering their 20s — the phase of life when people eat at restaurants most frequently, but closed restaurants are forcing them into their kitchens. Will they ever go back to eating out? 

—People at home are frequently checking their pantries and refrigerators. Apples need to be there.

—Apples have an advantage over other fruits because they’re versatile. They’re eaten throughout the day — at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Crop outlooks

On Aug. 12, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated the 2020 U.S. apple crop at 253.5 million bushels. That would be 3 percent smaller than the 2019 crop and 2 percent smaller than the five-year average. (The U.S. Apple Association will give its own estimate on Aug. 21.) 

The 2019 crop was 262 million bushels, the sixth largest ever recorded. The largest crop ever was in 2014, at 281 million bushels, according to USApple.

Here are a few statistical nuggets from the first day:

—Gala was officially the top variety in 2019, with 54 million bushels, followed by Red Delicious with 46 million bushels. Granny Smith, Fuji and Honeycrisp rounded out the top five. Honeycrisp is estimated to be the No. 3 variety in 2020, with 27.6 million bushels. 

—Cosmic Crisp is starting to make its mark with 467,000 bushels in 2019 and 2.1 million bushels estimated for 2020 (which would put it in the top 15). 

—As for the utilization of the 2019 crop, 71 percent went fresh and 29 percent went to processing. Twenty-five years ago, the breakdown was 52 percent fresh, 48 percent processing. 

Outlook for China and South America

Despite a cold snap in western growing provinces and heavy rains in others, China’s 2020 apple crop estimate is 40 million metric tons, down 5.7 percent from 2019. Though it’s the world’s largest apple producer, only a small percentage of China’s crop is exported, mostly to Southeast Asian countries. 

—According to the World Apple and Pear Association, Chile will produce 1.5 million metric tons of apples in 2020, Brazil 1.1 million metric tons and Argentina 550,000 metric tons.

by Matt Milkovich