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Honeybear Brands continues to find success, despite difficult season

By
Maggie Hanna

Despite the overall apple industry looking at one of it’s smallest crops in the last five to 10 years, Honeybear Brands production tonnage is up nearly 20 percent, according to Don Roper, vice president of sales and marketing for the Elgin, MN-based company.

“In general, the state did not meet original production estimates for several varieties including Galas and Honeycrisp and organic production did not increase as much as the industry would have hoped,” he shared with The Produce News in late December. “At Honeybear Growers, our orchards also experienced some lighter crops but this was offset by the additional production coming from new orchards that have been planted in the last several years as they come into full production.”

Roper went on to note that sales this fall have been very strong with exceptional movement and FOBs have started trending upwards after relatively flat pricing in September and October.

“Much of the flat pricing was tied to pricing contracts that were negotiated in the summer before we were aware of the actual size of the crop,” he noted. “Moving forward, pricing should be right sized as we head into the winter and spring months. Demand and supply always seem to sync up as we move past the holidays, so we expect to see higher apple FOBs for the remainder of the marketing year.”

Honeybear’s star apple, the Pazazz, is “all systems go,” according to Roper. The company started shipping this late season variety in early November and expects to have excellent supply of premium bulk fruit, as well as pouches, that will eat and display well through the spring and summer months.

“Midwest and New York supply of Pazazz is down a bit compared to last season, due to spring weather events,” Roper said. “Our crop in Washington and Nova Scotia is ample with really nice color, sweet and tangy flavor and an explosive crunch.”

Honeybear’s Pazazz apple has a bold punch of flavor that separates it from the rest of the apple pack. “We like to call it Honeycrisp with giddy-up!” said Roper. “This apple can command a nice margin for retailers especially when properly priced in the premium apple category.”

With prices expected to be higher on Honeycrisp apples this winter, retailers can use this opportunity to get consumers to try a different premium apple variety that won’t disappoint even the most loyal Honeycrisp fans, noted Roper.

Organics continue to be another growing focus of Honeybear Brands. The company offers a full line of Organic Cubbies in two-pound high-graphic pouches. “Only the best fruit wears the bear logo and these colorful packs deliver an attention grabbing experience on the outside and top-notch eating experience on the inside,” Roper said.

In addition to Honeybear’s Pazazz apple and organics line, new varietal development continues to be at the forefront of the organization’s mission.

“We are continually testing and evaluating varieties at their earliest stages to see what has the potential to be the next great performing apple on the retail deck,” Roper said. “Our global testing program has hundreds of varieties evaluated in multiple locations around the world and it is our commitment to identify and commercialize the best new varieties. We strive to find these opportunities for one reason — we want to deliver a great product consumers will love.”

The newest variety that has made it through Honeybear’s final testing process is a bright, clean yellow apple that the company has named “Honeymoon.”

“It has a great appearance with a nice, smooth finish and unique tropical and nutty flavor profile,” Roper described. “It made it through some key hurdles in the testing phases and we think it’s going to be something special in the category.”

Honeybear will be testing its new Honeymoon apple with select retail partners in the coming seasons.

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