Summer might be coming to a close, but with that comes cooler temperatures, football games, crunchy leaves, flannels, hayrides and corn mazes, pumpkin spice and apple season. The fruit that keeps the doctor away has a great outlook for 2023 – 256,261,905 bushels in the U.S. are expected to come, according to USApple, or more than 10.5 billion pounds of apples. Jim Bair, president and CEO of USApple called it an “abundant and high quality crop” this fall, as it exceeds last year’s production by 1.5%.
The top ten varieties are gala, red delicious, Honeycrisp, fuji, granny smith, golden delicious, pink lady/cripps pink, cosmic crisp, Rome and McIntosh.
Though red delicious remains the second most-produced apple, its production has declined steeply over five years. Red delicious decreased by 42% or 23 million bushels compared to 2018-19 production volumes. Conversely, Honeycrisp production has increased by 46% or almost 9 million bushels during the same period, according to USApple.
Washington state remains the biggest producer of apples in the U.S.; Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania follow Washington, respectively.
In August, USApple conducted market research during a conference that found the majority of apple shoppers (54%) rated flavor as most important when buying apples. Other categories were price, appearance/quality and type/variety.
Optimizing the four Ps (product, place, price and promotion) correctly is critical, according to a report from Supermarket Perimeter. Apples should be strategically positioned in the produce department to align with the right season and consumer demand. For example, during the fall and winter, apples should take a prominent place in the store, with eye-catching displays featuring a diverse range of apple varieties and packaging options. October is additionally National Apple Month.
Retailers should carefully curate their selection to cater to their customers’ preferences. Supermarket Perimeter recommends promotions to be scheduled twice a month, showcasing multiple apple varieties simultaneously rather than focusing on a single variety. This approach helps boost the apple category’s performance.
Packaged apples can target different consumer groups; for example, those looking to quickly grab 3-pound or 5-pound bags. Additionally, 40% of apples in the United States are now sold in bags, driven by their effectiveness as everyday items and the convenience they offer. Organic apples, in particular, have experienced significant growth in packaged sales, partly due to the impact of COVID-19 and the rise of online shopping. Packaging also provides clarity and convenience in the online shopping environment, potentially increasing the average purchase size.
New apple varieties have transformed apple retailing. Retailers should, if they are not already, pay close attention to the mix of apple varieties they offer, allocating space and curating selection to meet consumer preferences and market demand. Retail dietitians can focus on providing information about apples and their benefits, according to a report from Produce Business.
Consumers today demand detailed information about products, including flavor profiles, nutrition, baking tips and information about growers. Digital outreach can introduce consumers to specialty apple varieties (such as KORU, SnapDragon, Sweetango and EverCrisp) and regions they may not have had access to before, creating interest.
“With so many varieties, there’s one for every taste preference, leading to great opportunities for retail promotions particularly during the fall,” Bair said.
Online initiatives, such as direct apple sales through e-commerce platforms and social media engagement, are becoming important for reaching consumers and garnering demand. Educating consumers about winter storage and showcasing certain varieties that improve in flavor over time in storage can promote larger purchases.
Social media offers a way to personalize marketing efforts and help consumers understand how apples can meet their needs, whether for health or convenience. It can also educate consumers about apple varieties, regions, growing practices and connect them with growers who have interesting stories to tell.
Branded packaging and innovative marketing, such as having “kid-size” fruit options, can capture consumer attention and simplify merchandising for retailers.
Additionally, point of sale materials and sales always help. Retail dietitians can post educational signage that describes the different apple varieties and flavor profiles. “Many apple growers would be happy to provide or work with retailers to develop that sort of messaging,” Bair said. “Thanks to effective retail sourcing and marketing, consumers don’t need access to fun pick-your-own orchards to feel like they’re getting a harvest season experience.”
Communicating health benefits to consumers
With high production numbers expected, apples are sure to continue to be widely available in grocery stores. They’re also versatile in recipes. Despite not being as exotic as some fruits, they are cost-effective and easy to incorporate into a healthy diet. Whether you enjoy them as a whole snack, in oatmeal or added to salads, apples have a multitude of health benefits, making them an excellent choice for overall well-being.
Apples are only about 60 calories each, giving you a lot of nutritional bang for the calorie count, according to Cleveland Clinic. Apples offer the most health benefits when consumed in their natural state — whole, raw and with the skin on. Processing methods like juicing, making cider or creating applesauce can take away some of the valuable nutrients.
Various types of apples have slightly different nutrient profiles, such as red delicious apples. They may be the healthiest variety because its dark, red skin contains more antioxidants. But in general, apples are packed with essential elements:
Antioxidants: The peel of apples contains abundant antioxidants, particularly quercetin. These antioxidants are also found in colorful foods like citrus fruits, berries, green tea and red wine.
Fiber: Apples are a reliable source of dietary fiber, which helps digestion.
Water: Apples consist of about 85% water, making for a hydrating snack.
The combination of antioxidants and fiber makes apples very nutritional, and here’s how they benefit your health:
Stabilizes blood sugar: Apples help maintain stable blood glucose levels due to their high fiber content, which slows down sugar absorption. Studies have shown that eating more than one apple a day is linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
Lowers cholesterol: The fiber, especially pectin, in apples binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract and helps lower total cholesterol levels. Multiple studies have demonstrated a 5% to 8% reduction in cholesterol with daily apple consumption.
Reduces blood pressure: While research results are mixed, apples have been associated with lower blood pressure, potentially due to the antioxidants in the peels and the fiber content.
Eases inflammation: Apples contain anti-inflammatory substances, mainly fiber and quercetin, which reduce chronic inflammation and may protect against respiratory issues like asthma.
Boosts your microbiome: Apples help maintain a healthy gut microbiome by inhibiting harmful microbe growth with quercetin and promoting beneficial microorganisms’ growth through pectin.
Satiety: Apples are filling due to their high water and fiber content, helping you feel full for longer. This can aid in weight management by replacing higher-calorie snacks.
Longevity: Studies suggest that consuming an apple a day may extend your lifespan by reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, including lung cancer.
The Food Network has 55 apple recipe ideas for fall and beyond. How will you be promoting apples this fall?
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