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Chelan Fresh gets to the core of winter apple season

In 2018, Chelan, WA-based Chelan Fresh completed its merger with Borton Fruit successfully, and after a few growing pains, started to see great success in the team-up.

As the company preps for 2019, it has turned most of its attention to the winter apple season, as they know it’s an important time of the year to garner interest in the fruit.

“Typically in January, we see sales in the industry dip and prices pick back up again in late spring and the summer, so we do a lot of things to keep apples front and center in the winter,” Mac Riggan, Chelan Fresh’s director of marketing, said.

image002 One promotion the company runs with its retailer partners to achieve this is the NFL Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which complements the same message kids are getting school through the program that was started by the National Dairy Council and NFL, in collaboration with the USDA, to help encourage today’s youth to lead healthier lives.

“If they see our apples and pears bagged in the store, they identify them as one of the fuel items and sales increase,” Riggan said.

The winter apple crop has seen more big fruit so far this season, with the smaller sizes selling at a real premium, which is a 180 of where things were last year.

“We’re really not promoting small apples as hard now,” Riggan said. “Our big focus as we go to January is on our new Koru apple and we have a full lineup of point-of-sale materials, demo opportunities and social media support to drive sales to that the first three months of the season.”

Those three months are followed up with imported Koru from New Zealand during the first of May, when the domestic crop runs out.

“We are promoting our Rockit apple right now, which is selling really well,” Riggan said. “We offer it in a 2-pound pouch and a 3-pound shuttle, and we have it in variable tube counts. We’ve really picked up some sales momentum in the 2-pound bag because it offers the apple in a little more of a value package. Kids love them so it’s a great thing for moms to bring home.”

A challenge in the market is that there are a lot more pears this year, competing with apple sales.

Riggan noted in some export markets, such as Mexico, he is seeing competing foods such as oranges and kiwi at historically low pricing, so these other categories at cheaper prices is hurting apple sales.

“Sometimes, these prices are half of that of apples,” he said. “That’s a challenge for us to move our apples at a profitable price in the winter.”

The positives of the winter apple season that started in late 2018 is that it’s a good quality crop, it has a good size range, and Riggan expects the year to generally improve as we go along.

“I think pricing will improve and it’s definitely going to be a better year than it was last year,” he said. “We’re going to promote hard to get every nickel we can get out of the market as we compete.”