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Organic apple, pear, and cherry availability growing to meet demand

The availability of organic apples in the U.S. continues expanding. "This year the apple industry saw a significant increase in organic crop volume over last season. While the initial industry estimate was 21 million cases, that number was revised to 16.77 million," says Kaci Komstadius, VP of Marketing for Sage Fruit. "Though down slightly than originally anticipated, this season's volume is still much greater than 2022-2021 which came in at 11.8 million boxes."

Right now, Sage Fruit has promotable organic apple varieties including Granny Smith, Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, and Cosmic Crisp®. "Organic Honeycrisp is a high-end consumer favorite, which has an excellent ring at the register. Meanwhile, Organic Gala and Fuji are an excellent option for the everyday organic consumer because they are more price-friendly," says Komstadius.

Storage challenges
The greater availability of organic fruit does lead to one of the biggest hurdles in organic farming: limited storage capability. "Typically, we're unable to carry organic apples and pears for the same length of time as their conventional counterparts," adds Komstadius.

As for demand, it has been strong for organic apples and prices are also strong. "Overall, apple consumption is down. However, organic demand remains high across the produce industry and should continue to do so," says Komstadius, adding that roughly 52 percent of organic consumers are Millennials which account for 23 percent of the U.S. population. "The majority of millennials purchasing organic items are also parents. In addition, Gen Z accounts for almost 21 percent of the population, and we expect that they will continue a path of organic purchasing."

Over in cherries, demand is also strengthening in organic fruit as well though it's not nearly as strong as it is in apples or pears. "We are beginning to see it take off in certain markets," says Komstadius. "Organic cherries are much more labor-intensive to grow which results in higher retail pricing which isn't as attractive to the end consumer. However, as they continue to be more "health conscious" consumers are more likely to consider purchasing organic cherries."

Inflation has changed the way consumers are shopping for all their produce items. "Often, they have to choose from the numerous options in the department and it's our job to encourage them to choose apples, pears, or cherries. Our best way of doing that is putting out high-quality product that they can rely on to feed their families," says Komstadius.

Looking ahead, the 2024 Northwest cherry season will kick off much earlier than last season – it's about 10-14 days ahead of last year. In organics, Sage Fruit will have organic availability of dark sweet cherries from June to July.

Meanwhile, Sage Fruit itself has seen some changes this year. As of January 1st, Kevin Steiner was promoted to President of Business Development and Marketing, while Nicole Gordy assumed the role of CEO at Sage Fruit on January 15th. Steiner has worked with Sage Fruit Company for the last 19 years since graduating from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In high school, he also worked at his father's fruit market in Kentucky and during college, he worked in purchasing and order selecting for the Castellini Company.

Gordy has been with Sage since 2013, serving as the Executive Assistant to the CEO for six years, and the Director of Business Analytics for four years before being promoted to CEO.

For more information:
Kaci Komstadius
Sage Fruit Co.
Tel : +1 (509) 494-1968
[email protected]