Marketer is Smitten™

 Marketer Randy Steensma says Smitten™ brand apples have consumer appeal because of its crunch and flavor.

Marketer Randy Steensma says Smitten™ brand apples have consumer appeal because of its crunch and flavor.

When fruit marketer Randy Steensma tells growers he’s got a new World-class apple for them to plant, they tend to be wary.

“Growers are being very cautious on new varieties because there are so many to choose from,” he said.

And, if they’ve planted Honeycrisp, they know that some varieties can be a challenge to grow because of inconsistent cropping and poor packouts, for example. Once bitten, twice shy.

“We find growers ask the tough questions now,” said Steensma, who owns Honey Bear Tree Fruit Company in Wenatchee, Washington, and was among the first to plant Honeycrisp in Washington 25 years ago.

Steensma is a partner with Barclay Crane in Pegasus Premium Fruit Company, which has acquired an exclusive license for North America to produce and market a new variety called Smitten. The variety was bred in New Zealand by Plant and Food Research and is owned by Prevar, an international variety development and commercialization company.

Smitten’s maternal grandparents are two English varieties, Fiesta and Falstaff, while its paternal grandparents are Royal Gala and Braeburn.

 Randy Steensma (left) and Scott Smith (right) discuss the new Smitten™ apple in a test orchard in Quincy, WA. Smith grows several other New Zealand varieties in his orchard at Tonasket, WA.

Randy Steensma (left) and Scott Smith (right) discuss the new Smitten™ apple in a test orchard in Quincy, WA. Smith grows several other New Zealand varieties in his orchard at Tonasket, WA.

It’s a bicolored apple that resembles Royal Gala in appearance and size, but doesn’t split. Its blocky shape is reminiscent of European apples, but Don Zornes, sales manager at the Honey Bear Tree Fruit Company, said that gives Smitten “rack distinction” in the American grocery store.

Steensma said he’s thrilled that Smitten is bicolored, rather than red, because that will distinguish it on the retail shelf from the new strains of Gala, Fuji, and now Honeycrisp.

But what growers really want to know is: Does it give high yields? Is it a grower-friendly tree? Does it crop annually? Does it give good packouts?

Steensma answers in the affirmative, noting that the fruit also has all the characteristics that consumers look for.  It’s crunchy, it’s sweet, and it has great flavor. That’s why the catch phrase for this variety is “Once bitten, forever Smitten.”

“And it’s honestly true,” Steensma said. “We’ve handed them to growers, and they’re just flat hooked on these things.”

Zornes concurred: “Everyone we give Smitten to, they love it. We know we’re onto something big.”

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Read the full article at: www.goodfruit.com