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Chelan Fresh touting specialty varieties

During the upcoming Canadian Produce Marketing Association show in the Canadian city of Vancouver, Washington-based Chelan Fresh will be touting two of the newer apples in its portfolio: Rockit and Koru.

Both are varieties developed in New Zealand that Chelan Fresh has acquired the rights to grow and market in the United States. On its website, it describes Koru as “crisp, sweet and juicy with complex aromatic honey flavors, slight acidity and slow to brown.”

rocket-apples There are about 20 growers in the United States, situated in Washington and New York, that are growing the variety. Chelan Fresh is among three marketers. Mac Riggan, director of marketing for the firm named after the city and lake where it resides, said the Koru crop is also noted for its consistency of quality. He said its flavor proposition is top-notch and tastes like a Braeburn/Fuji blend.

For the Rockit variety, Chelan Fresh has acquired exclusive rights to grow, market and distribute the variety in the United States. Riggan said it is a small piece of fruit that the company merchandises in a tube to accentuate its points of differentiation. The firm’s website carries the following descriptor: “The miniature Rockit apple was launched to the world in 2010 from sunny Hawke’s Bay, on the east coast of New Zealand. Rockit apples are sweet, crunchy and distinctively fresh.”

The fruit naturally grows small and features a red blush color, originated by crossing a cultivar from the Gala and Gala Splendor variety of apple.

Speaking to The Produce News at the end of March, Riggan said it has been a challenging apple season because of the large size of the crop combined with small-sized fruit.

But he said other production areas in the United States are winding down so he anticipated a better marketing situation throughout the spring and summer. He said the same pattern is true for both the firm’s conventional and organic supplies.

He noted that both sectors saw big increases in volume and so demand is having trouble keeping up. Like most fresh commodities, he said it is difficult to have two great years in a row. But on the flip side, he added that Washington rarely experiences two difficult years in a row as well.

It’s too early to tell what Mother Nature will bring for the 2018-19 season, but he said growers are already pruning a bit more than they did to avoid a crop with an abundance of small fruit. It’s horticulture 101 that the less fruit a tree needs to support, the larger the individual fruit will be.

Riggan said Canada is a good market for Washington apples though the weakness of the Canadian dollar vs. the U.S. dollar adds to the cost of the imported fruit, which creates marketing challenges. However, he noted that Canadian’s domestic production is winding down and it does have a tendency to like smaller fruit, which is working in the favor of Washington state producers this year.