A look at the US apple market trends for growers and the pandemic’s impact on EXIM.
Apple production in the US has dropped in the past few years. Where in 2019, it was around 262 million bushels, in 2020 it was just 253 million bushels (3% smaller). Yet consumption of the fruit is expanding, and one reason for it is the shift in consumer buying behavior.
Post-COVID, consumers are more intentional about what they buy. Plus, grocery trips have become limited. So, they prefer to stock up on fruits that have a longer shelf life, like apples.
Fresh apple consumption is on the rise
Since the consumer demand is higher, the most apparent market trend is that more of the apple crop is sold as fresh fruit. As per estimates, only 29% of the total crop was processed into apple juice concentrate, dried apple slices, cider, purée, etc.
The majority, 71%, was utilized for fresh fruit consumption. Compared to 2018, when only 67% of the apple crop was sold as fresh, the jump is significant.
Increased preference for organic apples
Another trend that was slowly inching its way up was consumers eating healthy to boost immunity naturally. The pandemic bolstered this concern. That, in turn, has driven the demand for organic apples in the US. Considered one of the original superfoods, organic apples have more fiber and less sugar as compared to conventionally grown apples.
Honeycrisp and Cosmic Crisp are making their mark
When it comes to apple varieties in the US, the market trends towards 5 cultivars:
- Red Delicious
- Granny Smith
Together they comprised 67% of the production, with just the top three capturing 48% of it. However, the Honeycrisp variety is the fastest growing and is set to have a 12% volume rise. Both Red Delicious and Golden Delicious are showing a steady decline, allowing for Gala to take the edge and become the largest volume cultivar.
Cosmic Crisp, an apple variety bred and developed by Washington State University and first released in 2019, is making a splash. Currently, in the top 15 apple varieties, it has the potential to reach the top five by next year. It had a 720% volume growth by March 2021 and is expected to double again by 2022.
Fending off the pandemic’s repercussions
Apple sales may have exploded due to the pandemic, but the industry did suffer in terms of production. The lack of sufficient labor decreased production efficiency for growers. Moreover, broken supply chains due to travel restrictions and transport problems resulted in staggered market performance for the EXIM sector.
The forces of uncertainty make mapping the market and marketing the fruit increasingly challenging. From this comes the need for tools that not only offer insights, but also overcome the problems COVID-19 brought to the front.
AI-powered tools like Intello Track enable this. It automates measuring, recording, and tracking apple quality, allowing buyers to assess quality remotely. It also allows you to manage and standardize quality, ensuring high-grade apples (and the higher price associated with them).
Further, Intello Track creates a living record of your data, eliminating the need for paperwork, spreadsheets, and emails. Lastly, it comes with KPI-based dashboard and analytics, offering speedy, data-driven insights to make the most of the apple market trends.