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Evans Fruit returns to CPMA convention

After more than a decade away from the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s annual convention and trade show, Evans Fruit Co. of Cowiche, WA, is back as an exhibitor with several new apple varieties to announce.

Evans Marketing Director Suzanne Wolter said the return is part of the company’s goal to heighten awareness of its brand representation and increase its presence in the industry.

Evans-Fruit-spring-2018-planting3Evans Fruit Co. 2018 spring planting in Yakima County, WA. Photo courtesy of Evans Fruit Co.“It’s been about 15 years since we last exhibited at CPMA convention,” Wolter said. “Our primary goals this year are to connect the Evans Fruit Co. name to the many brands we represent and increase our participation in various industry organizations. CPMA is just one of these organizations and events.”

She went on to say, “We have very well recognized brands and a good company story to share, but not everyone associates our brands to Evans Fruit Co. Along with a more visible industry presence throughout 2018, customers can expect to see a slightly refreshed look on many of our box labels.”

The company, long known for its Red Delicious apples, has launched a vigorous expansion of varietals, including those favored by export markets.

“Every year we evaluate our current acreage, taking into consideration tree health, acreage yield, overall pack-out trend, current product mix and various other factors to determine whether to replant a particular orchard,” Wolter explained.

“This year we’re planting three varieties and planning about the same for the next few years. We’re primarily converting some of our older Red Delicious, Gala and other underperforming blocks with newer strains of Cripps Pink, Gala, Honeycrisp and Washington State University’s proprietary Cosmic Crisp.”

As new wood goes in, she said, “The challenge permanent crop growers battle is how much of the existing acreage can we afford to have out of production for up to four years. Apple trees won’t be harvested until the third or fourth leaf, returning nothing back to the grower yet requiring all the input costs of producing acreage.”

Some trees are producing new varieties now, and Wolter said, “We have many of the high-colored strains already, and the volume is steadily increasing. Our Cosmic Crisp will be available in about four years. During the first three years we focus on tree health and development. If we allow trees to produce too soon, there’s the potential to stunt the growth of the tree. Evans Fruit cultivates every tree with the intention to ship that fruit anywhere in the world and quality begins with a healthy orchard.”

And the excitement surrounding the new varieties is evident, with several factors going into the choices.

“We typically choose strains that are higher colored which may not color early or afford earlier-to-market options,” she said. “We focus on growing a more uniformly, full-colored apple which benefits both farmers and retailers/consumers.”

The upshot is that retailers receive a more uniform display.

“Our traditionally Red Delicious export markets also prefer the deep-colored Galas and Fujis. That being said, if we find an earlier-to-market Gala or Fuji that satisfies these other requirements, we’ll certainly give it a try.”

Red Delicious continues to maintain “a strong retail position domestically and is the No. 1 exported variety out of the state of Washington,” Wolter said. “They are still widely selected by consumers, and according to Nielsen sales data represented the third-highest volume in pounds sold at retail during the 2017 fiscal year.”

Wolter said the top five selling apples for 2017 were, respectively, Gala, Fuji, Red, Granny Smith and Honeycrisp.

“These top five accounted for almost 78 percent of total volume/pounds sold in the United States,” she said. Newer varieties drive sales dollars and generate “a tremendous amount of excitement in the retail arena, with the mainstays providing solid foundational success.”

The Red Delicious remains “one of the more recognizable apples on display,” which Wolter said is particularly notable “in that most consumers can’t tell the difference between the plethora of red colored apples available today.”

For decades the Red Delicious was the most popular selling variety, “financially sustaining growers and their families for a generation.”

Still, the new kids on the block are here to stay, and she said, “Obviously, Honeycrisp and the many branded managed varieties grab the apple headlines and cut into Red Delicious sales with each passing year. International sales remain very strong, with Red Delicious representing 43 percent of Washington state exports.”

And as it rolls out new varieties and keeps current with consumer trends, Evans Fruit Co. keeps its flagship Red prominent in the manifest.

“The deep red color, high quality and recognizable shape that Washington state became famous for producing is highly prized and Evans Fruit Co. brands — Top Red, Galaxy, Flavor Crest, Flavorland, Rainbow and Top Most — are among the most desired world-wide.