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NYAA bullish about NY apples

Since 1959, a majority of New York state apple growers have agreed to pay an assessment to promote New York state apples and apple products, provide grower communications, and conduct consumer research, and the New York Apple Association, Inc. takes that responsibility seriously.

“Our primary mission is to promote demand for New York state apples and apple products by bringing our industry’s sellers together with retailers, consumers and other buyers,” said Cynthia Haskins, president and chief executive officer of the NYAA. “We also represent our industry before state and federal legislators and regulators, to educate them about our industry and its needs.”

ApplePieFilling-5 usapple2014-copyAfter getting the 2017 apple season off to a great start, NYAA finished up the year by encouraging New Yorkers to give holiday apple-themed gift baskets as a gift idea from the heart. Haskins said the big story in apples today is variety, and noted New York leads the U.S. industry in variety innovation and production.

“New York state is the largest apple-growing state east of the Mississippi River, and second-largest producer in the country and we come by our Eastern market dominance honestly,” she said. “We have perfect apple-growing geography and climate, and that shows in the wide variety and great eating quality of the apples we grow.”

New York’s Cornell University is the Eastern epicenter of new variety introductions, debuting RubyFrost and SnapDragon so far, which can only be grown and sourced from the state.  

“At the same time, consumers are also telling us they want their classic favorites. New York is famous for its McIntosh and Empire,” Haskins said. “We deliver the best of both apple worlds.”

Success in the industry, the NYAA believes, comes from a combination of good relationships with buyer decision makers that is built on trust and applicable skills.

“In this day and age, apple sellers have to bring solid business tools to the table, to help customers to maintain and grow their apple business,” Haskins said. “NYAA’s team of retail account managers is ready to work with wholesale buyers and our industry’s shippers to design individualized marketing programs that succeed in both areas. And we can help our shippers to fulfill the needs of buyers, both wholesale and consumer alike.”

The NYAA has a broad marketing toolbox to help reach their end customers, including both “high-tech” and “high-touch” tools — from demos to digital couponing and exclusive social media content.

“We can advise buyers on everything from the basics — such as training store-level personnel to handle and talk up our apples and cider — to on-trend promotions that tap into the latest food trends,” Haskins said. “The popularity of pouches continues to grow steadily. The high-graphic packs are eye catching, consumers love them. And they are right-sized to boot: they are smaller than the typical five-pound polybag which appeals to smaller households, and they help move slightly smaller fruit sizes than are typically sold in bulk for individual sale.”

After getting the 2017 apple season off to a great start, the NYAA is focused on year-end promotions, encouraging New York state apple fans to leave an apple for Santa, and promoting holiday apple-themed gift baskets as a gift idea from the heart.

One tip for retailers the NYAA offers is to supply consumers with the information and tools they need to eat more apples.

“With so many new varieties on the market, consumers need help finding the flavor profile for them. Then give them handling and storage tips to protect the investment they’ve just made,” Haskins said. “Millennials want to prepare more of the foods they eat, but they need help learning how to do that — retailers can help with easy product use ideas and simple, high-flavor recipes that tap into the snacking and grazing trends. NYAA can help with all that content.”

Looking ahead, the state’s apple growers have been actively planning for the future and while growers are farming slightly fewer acres than 5-10 years ago, the acres they are farming are actually producing more fruit as they transition to high-density trees and more irrigated acreage.

“And our growers are planting more of the varieties that consumers want, from the new favorites to the classics that New York is known for,” Haskins said. “Because we have a natural climate and geography for apple growing, we can grow most every variety better than anywhere else in the country.”

NYAA’s staff and Board of Directors has also gone through a series of strategic planning sessions this year, to help it identify the needs of the state’s apple growers and the diverse markets to which they sell to put it in the best possible position to lead and support the industry for the future.

“This is an incredibly exciting time to be involved in the apple industry, especially in a state like New York that really is the Big Apple,” Haskins said. “Food trends are working strongly in our favor. Consumers are interested in eating apples again, and that rising tide is lifting all apple boats — new and old favorites alike. Consumers are willing to spend more for high-quality foods and beverages, and want foods that are minimally processed and as close to nature as possible. All of those trends point to even more interest in apples moving forward. That’s gotten growers even more excited for the future.”