Don Zornes and Barclay Crane of Honey Bear Tree Fruit Discuss the Season for Smitten™
- by Melissa De Leon
WENATCHEE, WA - Consumers might be swapping in their mistletoe for Smitten™ apples, with how much growth the fruit has seen since this time last year. Boasting more volume and better flavor as the trees of this proprietary apple age, Honey Bear Tree Fruit’s Don Zornes tells me “’tis the season to be Smitten.”
Smitten’s license holder, Pegasus LLC, is owned by the families of Randy Steensma and Barclay Crane, with Honey Bear Tree Fruit serving as the lead marketing partner.
“We are finishing up on the first season of our organic deal and it did better than we could have ever anticipated,” Don shares with me, adding that conventional Smitten apples also ran strong. “We saw remarkable movement. This first year of organic Smitten was incredible and conventional saw significant growth versus last year.”
Barclay shared with me some of the details on that growth and what it has meant for some of the team’s retail partners.
“Smitten has lit up apple categories at every chain that featured it this fall, including setting a record at one major chain for monthly apple sales across hundreds of high-volume stores,” he tells me. “Additionally, Smitten increased whole-store sales across an entire 160-store division in a national chain seeing declines across all divisions not carrying Smitten during the same period—an extraordinary result unmatched in Steensma or Crane’s careers. These results are not empty claims, but based on metrics supplied by the chains themselves. Smitten could very well be the most important SKU in an entire high-end supermarket for drawing in new customers and getting repeat business. Consumer response is over-the-top.”
Set to ship through the end of January, Don also adds that this will be a great holiday apple for its ideal baking quality—Smitten stays firm when baked and is known for being incredibly crunchy, offering sweet flavor with tones of tartness, and having a beautiful rosy blush to match that holiday decor.
“A lot of people do have wholesale brands, but as far as we can tell this is the first consumer-branded apple in the industry’s history. It’s a bit more unique and I think very memorable. Branding also helps as we start to export into Asia and beyond. It is critical for markets that don’t speak English—we make sure to have a very large PLU sticker emphasizing the two pink kisses so people see it and know that’s the apple they are looking for,” Don explains.
As for 2019, Don and his team says we are going to see exponential growth for both organic and conventional Smitten apples, so keep an eye out for this tasty fruit.