The New York Times gives a detailed account of competition among new varieties to dominate the $3 billion apple industry.
Readers of Good Fruit Grower are familiar with emerging varieties, such as Cosmic Crisp, that seek to dominate the next generation of apples but it’s interesting to see how the New York Times recognizes potential for strong response from consumers. That suggests increases in consumer spending and consumption.
“Americans have been falling hard for new apples,” writes David Karp. He says of the top 10 sellers in the 2014 crop, the only three to post sales gains were the newer premium varieties, Ambrosia, Honeycrisp and Jazz. Ambrosia sales rose 47 percent and Red Delicious sales fell 15 percent.
But fruit breeders around the world have been busy creating an array of even newer varieties — with flashy names like SweeTango, Juici, Opal and SnapDragon — that could knock Honeycrisp and its generation of fruit from their lucrative perch atop a national apple industry that reaps about $3 billion for farmers each year.
Karp also describes the hunt for a variety that would have a Honeycrisp appeal but would have fewer challenges and certain advantages.
Growers are rushing to plant other new varieties, derived from Honeycrisp, that are easier to produce, ripen earlier and store longer in good condition. (Suitability for cooking, however, is not a primary goal for most breeders.)
The University of Minnesota has introduced two varieties that ripen in early August, a month before Honeycrisp, and have somewhat zestier flavor: SweeTango, introduced in 2008 and now widely available, and MN55, which will be given a more lyrical name and will be sold in 2017. Juici, which will also appear that year, has the crispness of Honeycrisp and the firmness of Braeburn, with an appealing balance of sweetness and tartness.
Many breeders around the world have been trying for years to develop apples with sweet red flesh, pigmented, like red apple skin, with antioxidant-rich chemicals called anthocyanins. Such varieties would be novel and attractive, the breeders hope, and could be touted for their reputed health benefits.
Karl talks about excitement about Cosmic Crisp, which is “being hailed as the most promising and important apple of the future.”