Many Washington apple producers are using the option of selling Cripps Pink apples without using the Pink Lady brand name.
In the United States, Pink Lady trees were sold to growers before the International Pink Lady Alliance was formed in 1999. Because of that, producers are allowed to use the name Pink Lady on fruit shipped within the United States. However, if they use the Pink Lady flowing heart logo on the packaging, they must pay an assessment of $1.25 per box to Pink Lady America. Producers who choose not to use the Pink Lady name can sell their apples as Cripps Pink, which is the variety name.
John Reeves, general manager of Pink Lady America, has encouraged Washington producers to join the Pink Lady program and support Pink Lady promotions, but with little success so far.
"We made our best effort, and we didn’t really get very far with people, which was a little disappointing," he said. "We continue to work to try to get people to understand that it’s in their best interest to work with Pink Lady, rather than against it," he said. "But we can’t force anybody to do anything."
Reeves believes that with stronger promotions, Pink Lady could become a major variety in the United States, as it already is in some parts of the world.
Reeves declined to say how many Washington shippers are participating in the Pink Lady program. "I would hate to say that because it seems to be a moving target, but it’s not as many as we would like," he said.
According to figures from the Washington State Department of Agriculture, about 47 percent of the total 1.9 million boxes of the variety were marketed under the name Pink Lady.
Pink Lady accounted for 35 percent of the 600,000 boxes of Cripps Pink/Pink Lady apples exported during the 2006-2007 season, the department’s shipping reports show. All apples exported as Pink Lady are subject to an assessment, but Cripps Pink are not.
Mike Hambelton, who is vice president of marketing at Columbia Marketing International (CMI) in Wenatchee and a board member of the Washington Apple Commission, said shippers are choosing not to join Pink Lady because of the trademark rules and confusion about the rules, as well as the fees involved.
"The confusion is that it’s different shipping in the U.S. than it is to ship into Canada and Mexico, and it’s different to ship offshore than it is to either Mexico, Canada, or the U.S. They’re unhappy with the whole situation."