Following another large crop, Michigan apple experts offer insight for retailers

From The Packer | 6 January 2024

Overview of apples from Michigan, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on January 5, 2024.

The U.S. Apple Association said inventories as of December 2023 were up about 33% over this same time last year. Buoyed by a supersized crop this year, marketers say this season promises to offer retailers ample opportunities to put the spotlight on apples.

To get a pulse on the apple industry, The Packer interviewed growers and packers in key apple-producing states — such as Michigan — to learn about the opportunities available for retailers this season.

The 2023 season was unusual for Michigan apple growers. Diane Smith, executive director for Michigan Apples, said growers experienced some localized frost damage in the spring but still had a great growing year.

Trish Taylor, marketing manager for Riveridge Produce Marketing, an integrated marketer, packer and shipper in Sparta, Mich., agreed, noting the growing season was close to ideal with a year of low disease pressure.

“That set us up for really good value, outstanding and consistent quality,” she said. “But with that, it was an unexpected crop because the previous year was a really big crop.”

Smith said the current USDA estimate for the state in 2023 is 32 million bushels. Growers in the state produced 32,380,952 bushels in 2022.

apple volumes by history

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

“Quality has been excellent with good pack-outs and great appearance and flavor,” Smith said. “With a similar sized crop last year [in 2022], our industry has proven success in not only producing large, good-quality crops, but also marketing them throughout the spring and into summer.”

Taylor said while it’s too early to judge how the 2024-25 season will pan out, Riveridge growers expect things to come down to earth a little bit after two large crops.

“Even though we had those two high-volume seasons, they are expecting a little bit of a reality and a rest period, but that’s still 85% to 90% of the volume, which is a lot of volume,” she said.

Smith and Taylor said labor costs will be a major challenge for Michigan growers in 2024. Smith said the Adverse Effect Wage Rate will increase about 7% to $18.50 an hour.

“Unfortunately, growers continue to face rising costs of production and labor and onerous regulatory requirements that could have a significant impact on the future of the U.S. apple industry,” Smith said.


Gala takes the top spot in terms of the number of acres planted in the state, Smith said. Honeycrisp, fuji and cripps pink remain popular with consumers, too.

“EverCrisp and Ambrosia are growing in popularity as well,” she said. “Many people love traditional favorites like mcintosh, red delicious and golden delicious as well.”

Taylor said EverCrisp and Ambrosia are two varieties Riveridge will focus on in the new year.

“We can say we’re biased because we’re in Michigan, but there’s certain varieties that taste better [grown] in Washington, taste better [grown] in New York or taste better [grown] in Michigan. Ambrosia is one of those that tastes better out of Michigan,” she said.


Taylor said a key to getting consumers — and retailers — to devote space and dollars to Ambrosia is through taste testing. She said Riveridge plans to offer several promotions that retailers can choose from.

She said she also expects to do more direct marketing to consumers this year. Taylor said she’s noticed how consumers want to interface directly with Riveridge on social media, so she plans to use social media to drive interest in Ambrosia.

“Apples are really a word-of-mouth thing,” she said.

Taylor said EverCrisp is another apple slowly gaining traction. Riveridge doesn’t begin promoting EverCrisp until January, which she said is a good time to add new interest in apples.

“It’s a nice alternative to Honeycrisp,” she said.

Smith said Michigan Apples provides retail dietician kits designed by Shari Steinbach, the official dietitian of the organization, to retailers as a turnkey resource to increase interest in apples, especially as many consumers put a focus on health and wellness at the start of a new year.

“Everyone knows that apples have an overwhelming number of health benefits, and we want to make sure consumers are thinking about those benefits when they are doing their shopping,” Smith said.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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