Superfresh Growers hypes Autumn Glory and Cosmic Crisp apples
Apples are the backbone of Superfresh Growers and have been a part of its five generations of growing since the late 1800s when the company first started farming apples and pears in Washington's Yakima Valley.
“Apples make up the biggest percentage of our overall profile spanning organic and conventional apples, pears, cherries, apricot, kiwi berries and blueberries,” said Catherine Gipe-Stewart, communications manager for the Yakima, WA-based company. “Superfresh Growers grows about 20 to 25 percent of our apples as organic, depending on the variety.”
The state crop is looking to be 125 million, up approximately 2 percent from last year, and Superfresh Growers remains one of the largest apple growers in Washington state.
“Superfresh Growers is a family-owned company, which is quickly becoming a rarity in the apple category,” Gipe-Stewart said. “We own all our decisions and do not have to report to an outside investor. Being family owned by farmers mean we understand the importance of taking care of the land for generations to come. We are currently training the sixth generation and we want this legacy to continue.”
Success, she said, comes from anticipating change before it happens and planning ahead as much as possible. In other words, when Mother Nature throws you a curve ball, be flexible and creative.
“As the pandemic started to pick up back in early 2020, we immediately created our COVID-19 Response Team, a group of company leaders that led Superfresh Growers through the ever-changing regulations,” Gipe-Stewart said. “Employee safety was and continues to be our priority.”
Turning to the crop, the company is optimistic about what’s to come, though it won’t equal last year’s banner crop.
“With the heat this summer, we are expecting sizing to be down half to one size from last year,” Gipe-Stewart said. “This will create more small apple and bag promotions, but there will be plenty of bulk apples to promote as well. Overall, it’ll be a promotable crop.”
Autumn Glory and Cosmic Crisp apples are the company’s two proprietary varieties, and both have been killing it in Nielsen data. Autumn Glory has the largest year-over-year growth percentage in the peak of its season (Dec-Feb), up 40 percent in dollars and up 88 percent in volume. Autumn Glory has a nationwide following and a consumer following that is obsessed with the unique caramel and cinnamon notes.
“Cosmic Crisp apple has maintained the No. 11 national spot in only its sophomore year,” Gipe-Stewart said. “It is going strong into this third year with consumers pining for harvest. Cosmic Crisp has found a place for those seeking a crunchy and juicy apple. Parents especially enjoy that it naturally doesn’t brown, making it ideal for kids’ lunches.”
Autumn Glory has found success as a uniquely flavored apple. “We’ve received feedback from multiple retailers that it is their favorite apple due to uniqueness, flavor, and overall quality,” Gipe-Stewart said. “It has been referred to as ‘the craft beer of the apple category,’ in reference to something that stands out and connects with the current trends of millennial consumers. Plus, with a healthy supply of organics, we are able to provide incremental sales.”
The company has a growing percent of organics for both Autumn Glory and Cosmic Crisp, which has been vital to grow in key natural foods areas — and to offer an incremental choice for those also carrying conventional.
“There are a number of retailers that haven’t begun to carry Cosmic Crisp yet and are missing key sales dollars,” Gipe-Stewart said. “Cosmic Crisp has become a national apple in two years and will continue to rise in the apple category.”
When it comes to retailers, Gipe-Stewart feels more need to expand their organic offerings. “Over last 18 months, we’ve seen huge organic apple category growth,” she said. “Pre-pandemic, organics only represented 8 to 9 percent of the category. It has maintained a 13 percent average share and continues increase in year-over-year growth.”
Superfresh Growers is especially focusing on organic Gala, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Cosmic Crisp and Autumn Glory, though it grows organics for all apple varieties.
“We’ve had great success with the Superfresh Organics new branding,” Gipe-Stewart said. “We’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback. Retailers love that it’s so easily identifiable as organic.”
The company also offers tote bag programs for both Cosmic Crisp and Autumn Glory, which have been important for retailers stepping away from plastic.
“This is a great way to promote smaller, snackable apples,” Gipe-Stewart said. “With both back-to-school and increasing pandemic demand, tote bags have been a popular choice.”