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Case study: Taking a bite out of the US apple market

New Zealand apple exporters are right now busy supplying their crop to worldwide markets. Kiwi grown apples are as popular as ever with overseas consumers, and one new variety is making an exciting debut this year.

New Zealand apple exporters are right now busy supplying their crop to worldwide markets. Kiwi grown apples are as popular as ever with overseas consumers, and one new variety is making an exciting debut this year.

Throughout the New Zealand apple season millions of cartons of well-known varieties, like Royal Gala and Braeburn, are shipped around the world. Consumers from Amsterdam to Bangkok, Chennai to Dalian, and many other places in between, all enjoy a good crunchy Kiwi apple.

This season marks a special occasion for the New Zealand apple industry as the long-awaited, first ever commercial export shipment of Honeycrisp apples makes its way from Timaru to Philadelphia, USA, on board the Maersk Line vessel, ‘Irene’s Rainbow’.

The Honeycrisp apple has been described by the New York Times as the ”iPod of the orchard”. This delectable red fruit is known for being "explosively crisp" with amazing flavour and texture. It was originally discovered and developed by the University of Minnesota Department of Horticulture, and the variety consistently tops the lists of US consumer favorites.

Turning potential into reality

The inaugural shipment of two 40’ Reefer containers comes after many years of test planting in a number of trial orchards around the country.

Honeycrisp is a cool climate variety and South Canterbury and Central Otago orchards have delivered excellent results. It’s a potential boon for growers in these regions where Honeycrisp pioneers Waipopo Orchards Limited and a handful of new growers are currently building up their crop to commercial level. Other industry players are following the developments with a keen interest.

New Zealand fruit marketer Fruit 2U Limited is in charge of marketing New Zealand-grown Honeycrisp apples to USA-based company Pepin Heights. Director Murray Linnell is convinced about the positive prospects for this particular variety, saying the potential counter-seasonal demand from American buyers could be as high as 1 million cartons, the equivalent of 850 FFE. While New Zealand might not be able to supply them all, local export volumes are expected to climb steadily to 150-200 FFE over the next few years.

Linnell adds that another great advantage of the Honeycrisp is its healthy grower return margins. He says the variety consistently achieves a price 2-3 times higher than other apples sold in the US.

“The Honeycrisp apple currently out-earns any other variety of apples grown in NZ for the export market, and the first real proof of its potential will come from a successful product outturn in just over a month.”

Optimal product conditions

Reefer containers play an important role when it comes to shipping world-class quality apples. Not all apples are created equal, as colour, sugar content and flesh pressure (that’s the crunch) are all important considerations for choosing the right container type and settings.

The Honeycrisp is considered a vulnerable variety that requires a strict cool chain regime, from picking and storing at the orchard through to the final distribution to supermarket shelves. Maersk Line New Zealand has worked closely with Murray Linnell and his team to ensure optimal product conditions during transportation.

Maersk Line’s local and global reefer teams understand the process of refrigeration and the key factors to prolonging the shelf-life of products. Whether you are shipping chilled apples or frozen fish, our expert staff have the extensive skills and know-how to ensure that your cargo will get the care it requires.