Organic Smitten Apple Offering Coming This Year
In 2005, veteran Jazz and Honeycrisp pioneer Barclay Crane, co-owner of Pegasus LLC, set out to find the best-tasting apple in the world with the explicit goal of offering an eating experience so good it represented a “Paradigm Shift.”
While visiting world-renowned fruit breeders Plant and Food Research (PFR) in New Zealand, Crane and partner Randy Steensma discovered ‘PremA17’ and knew instantly they were onto something extraordinary. Family-owned and Washington-based Pegasus partnered with Prevar LTD, commercial agent for PFR, to become exclusive North American licensee for (PremA17) Smitten™ brand. Crane and supporting growers decided to test the variety first to confirm its fantastic eating quality in the new microclimate in Washington State before attempting organic. Having confirmed its quality, the group is now starting organic
production in earnest.
“It’s all about the eating experience—there’s nothing like it on the planet,” says Crane. Combining phenomenal taste with
extraordinary crunch, Smitten is the highest-quality eating experience in the apple category, according to Crane. “It’s not even
close—we committed in 30 seconds.”
“Smitten, non-GMO and bred by traditional methods, comes from the same New Zealand growers that produced Envy, Jazz and Pacific Rose,” says Crane, “offering a deep, balanced ‘apple-y’ taste with the highest consistent pressures of any commercial variety, measurably high brix and satisfying background taste factors.”
Bicolor Smitten is average sized with unique red striping and a breaking yellow background. “It looks like a natural apple as seen in the wild. We know the millennial consumer is way beyond what we call the ‘large red aesthetic.’ It’s all about internal eating quality now. This apple fits the new model and wins—we call it millennial-friendly,” says Crane.
Now in its third year of commercial volume, North American production of Smitten volume is growing rapidly—doubling last year’s volume. The company will begin shipping mid-September.
As young trees are now maturing, commercial volumes and appearance are settling into a more predictable pattern, boosting structured retail relationships, says Crane. “Our original young orchards are settling into maturity. It’s always an adventure marketing a new variety coming off young orchards with occasional atypical ‘teenager’ tendencies. As orchards are now reaching six to eight years, we are seeing fruit we call typical of the variety. We’re asking for a little understanding with our juvenile variety now growing into an adult,” Crane says with a laugh.
Crane believes the marketplace is trending toward organic, and he anticipates progressively more orchards
will transition moving forward. “Organic growing is a challenge at every site, for every grower. We want to do it in a way that creates ‘sustainable organic production,’” says Crane. Between Canada and the U.S., Pegasus has established a strong base of 50 Smitten growers.
“We are proud of our grower base,” says Crane. “These are top-tier growers, recognized by peers for their excellence, doing a superior job of growing this apple. We are confident this is the one consumers will come back for, like Honeycrisp. This is not just my opinion; we get constant feedback from retailers and personal networks reinforcing that. Even stores with multiple new apple varieties report this is the one consumers remember and come back asking for.”
Crane cites a stunning story about a major chain that promoted Smitten in a regional DC and increased sales over the entire 100+ store division over 3%, during a downturn for all stores nationwide. “That’s not 3% increase for the apple category or even all produce—it increased everything in the store—an extraordinary result. People came back into these specific stores for this apple,” he says.
“In a complex, evolving retail/wholesale environment, promoting a new variety with a new name is not enough. That only goes so far,” says Barclay. “Superior eating quality is most important—it’s everything. We’re confident Smitten’s phenomenal taste and texture is good enough consumers will remember it in a sea of new produce offerings.”
Pegasus is actively involved in marketing the Smitten apple through advertising, in-store demo programs and point-of-purchase material but believes word-of-mouth will ultimately play the biggest role. Crane adds, “We are proud of our company’s service history and reputation. We take seriously the process of establishing relationships with customers large or small and helping them create a successful apple category.”
For more information, contact Don Zornes, North American Marketing Director, at (509) 264-9009 or visit www.smittenapple.com.
Article by The Packer.