NEWCOMERSTOWN, Ohio — The MAIA-1 apple — marketed as EverCrisp® — is tracking for explosive growth in the produce aisle in the coming years. Big on sweet flavor and juicy, crisp texture, EverCrisp apples have won over customers in orchards and at select retailers, establishing a foundation of early fans.
“EverCrisp apples have all the characteristics that customers are looking for in a new apple. Customers love them and they’re coming back for more,” said Vinnie Latessa, director of produce for Heinen’s Grocery Store, which has 23 locations between Cleveland and Chicago.
Latessa said EverCrisp is a great fit for the retailer’s renowned local produce program that features about a dozen Ohio apples. “We’re featuring EverCrisp as a late season apple. Even with a later start, EverCrisp is rivaling sales of Honeycrisp. It’s a close second in our lineup of apples from a sales and volume standpoint.”
The apple — known as variety MAIA-1 to breeders and growers — was developed by the Midwest Apple Improvement Association. There are 350 orchards growing EverCrisp apples in 32 states. The largest number of growers are concentrated in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and New York, but EverCrisp apples are also expanding nationwide.
In Washington’s premier apple growing region, Gus Heinicke, an orchard manager for Columbia Fruit Packers, started with a small plot of 10 MAIA-1 trees about four years ago.
“I’m really excited about EverCrisp,” said Heinicke. “The fruit on our older trees was outstanding this year.”
While it will be three or four years before Columbia Fruit Packers has enough volume, he thinks EverCrisp will be a distinctive addition to the company’s variety mix offered to retailers. “I’m planting more acres so we can move forward with EverCrisp.”
Growers capitalize on EverCrisp for farm markets and u-pick
Depending on the region, EverCrisp apples are typically harvested in October through November. Garwood Orchards in LaPort, Ind., positions EverCrisp apples as the successor to Honeycrisp’s picking season.
“EverCrisp is a great apple for us as it continues to bring people to the orchard. Once customers try one, they pick only EverCrisp,” said orchard owner Brian Garwood. Orchards and farm markets, like Garwood Orchards which draws crowds from Chicago and South Bend metro areas, provide wide customer exposure for new varieties, often fueling retailer adoption.
Durability and storability
Grower Dave Rennhack of Rennhack Orchards Market in Hart, Mich., applauds the apple’s firmness and storability.
“The apple eats even better after a few months of storage. The flavor mellows out a bit and the coloration turns from an underlying green cast to pineapple gold, making it very appealing,” Rennhack said. He plans to offer EverCrisp when the farm market reopens in the spring.
“While people are blown away by the snap of the apple, that same quality makes it a durable apple for handlers and retailers,” Latessa said. “It will be great if our supply lasts through February.”
— Midwest Apple Improvement Association