Stemilt Experiences A Surge in Organic Volume to Meet Demand

Wed. September 20th, 2017 - by Jordan Okumura

WENATCHEE, WA – Organics are on the rise my friends, but I do not think you need me to tell you that. One of those companies continuing to make strides in this sector is Stemilt, a company committed to flavor, quality, consistency, and diversification.

Twenty-eight years ago, Stemilt Founder Tom Mathison began transitioning significant acreage, primarily the Golden Delicious variety, to organic production, making Stemilt an early leader in organic apples. Since that time, organic apples have become and industry leading category across retail and foodservice spreads.

Tate Mathison, Director of Sales, Stemilt“My grandfather would be amazed by the flavors we are growing today,” said Director of Sales Tate Mathison, and member of his family’s fifth generation of farmers. “Honeycrisp, Pink Lady®, Gala, Fuji, Piñata®, and SweeTango® - many of these apples weren’t grown back in 1989, yet alone grown organically. This surge of flavors is exciting for our Artisan Organics™ program, and most importantly, for organic shoppers as they will have more access to their favorite varieties organically.”

Currently the company has invested in organics with nearly 30 percent of its entire apple crop grown and certified as organic this year, according to a press release. Even more acreage is currently going through the three-year transition process, providing increased supplies to meet demand in the near future. Perhaps more exciting than Stemilt’s volume increases in organics is the varietal mix of apples that the company is farming organically.

Stemilt's 3lb. organic Piñata pouch

When comparing the 2017 crop year to last year, Stemilt will see a 55 percent increase on its total organic apple supply when comparing the 2017 crop year to last year, and with a 250 percent increase in organic Honeycrisp volumes. Organic Fuji is up more than 90 percent in volume, and Stemilt’s signature variety, Piñata®, is expected to have an organic volume increase of 60 percent once it harvests. Pink Lady® and Gala volumes have also increased organically, each by more than 30 percent.

“Our organic growth is centered around growing apples with flavors that delight shoppers. Organics are booming across grocery, and apples are among the top three organic fruits for the produce department,” Roger Pepperl, Director of Marketing shared. “Growing modern apples like Honeycrisp organically allows us to help retailers cater to their best customer in the produce department, the organic shopper, and do so with our high standards of ‘world famous’ fruit.”

Stemilt's organic Pink Lady apples at harvest

Apple harvest is underway at Stemilt and the surge in organic volume is already making it possible for retailers to promote organic apples in a bigger way than ever before. Pepperl said that running feature promotions on bulk organic apples, including Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady®, and Piñata®, will be key in driving organic apple sales growth in the late fall and winter months. The 2017 crop will also have more opportunities to promote small-sized fruit, making it a great time for retailers to promote intent to parents and kids through Stemilt’s 3lb. Artisan Organics™ Lil Snappers® apple line-up.

“Lil Snappers® kid-sized apples have taken off for many retailers, so much so that they are now an everyday item. The increased organic volumes at Stemilt will now allow retailers to promote this well-known brand organically. The package size of three pounds matches perfectly with shopper trip frequency and household size. Most importantly, it ensures that more fruit gets sold to the largest produce purchaser at your store–the organic shopper–and then eaten by the next generation of produce shoppers,” Pepperl stated.

As we look to the future, organic growth won’t slow at Stemilt, and the company has more acreage in transition to organics, hoping to not only offer shoppers more supplies, but also increased availability year-round.

Chelan, Washington Piñata apple harvest

“Our long-time leadership in organics has positioned Artisan Organics perfectly to meet the increasing consumer demand for flavorful organic apples,” Pepperl added. “We’ve been growing and learning about organics for nearly three decades and that experience is helping us bring these new star apples to grocery stores organically, and with exceptional flavors.”

Organics are going to be making more of an impact than ever before and Stemilt is one of those companies leading the charge across all segments. As we look towards fall, stay tuned to AndNowUKnow for more updates on Northwest treefruit supply and demand.