UK consumers enjoy New York-grown Empire apples. Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association (NYAA), based in Fishers, NY, wants to underscore this fact and increase the presence of the state’s namesake nicknamed apple by letting retailers know the NYAA considers the UK an important export market. Allen will sample Empire apples and provide a take-one marketer-shipper directory at the US Apple Export Council (USAEC) booth at the London Produce Show and Conference.
“New York Empire is a popular apple variety in the UK. We have two to three retailers we work with and want to continue to supply these apples to these chains,” says Allen, whose organization is a charter exhibitor of the London Produce Show.
New York is currently the only state represented by the Washington, DC-headquartered USAEC that ships apples to the UK. The USAEC is a trade association that represents New York, Michigan, California, Pennsylvania and Virginia growers, which collectively account for nearly 40 percent of the total U.S. apple production.
Allen explains that New York has shipped apples to the UK for over 25 years and at one time the UK was the largest market for the New York-grown Empire apple. This foothold has diminished over the years due to three reasons: First, the Empire wasn’t available year-round, which caused retailers not to carry it in favor of varieties with 12-month supply. Secondly, Empire production increased in the UK and the popularity of locally-grown relegated imported apples in second place. These two factors are less of an issue today. Retailers are accustomed to switching in and out of varieties on a seasonal basis, and the Empire now enjoys September through August supply. In addition, Empire production in the UK is on the decline due to quality and climate issues. The third reason for a dip in Empire exports to the UK, especially in the past five years, is the EU’s extremely low maximum residue level (MRL) mandate. The MRL is the highest level of a pesticide residue that is legally tolerated in or on a food when pesticides are applied correctly according to Good Agricultural Practices.
“The MRL restriction eliminated some marketers in New York who didn’t want to change the way they operated for just one market. At the same time, two marketers did readjust their business plans to meet this demand. Both have new facilities that enabled them to eliminate residues. The message that we want to communicate to UK retailers is that we do have New York apples that meet the MRL standards,” says Allen.
Allen says another of his goals at this year’s London Produce Show is to let UK retailers know about financial assistance to promote U.S.A. and NY apples. These funds can be put to work in ways such as sampling, online and social media programs and promoting home delivery programs if that is a platform a retailer wishes to pursue.
The Empire is a considered a red dessert apple with a crunchy texture and sweet-tart taste. It’s a medium-sized piece of fruit that averages 2-7/8 inches (about 73 mm) in diameter, ideal for bagging. New York growers can pack apples into a UK-retailer-specified private label bag of any size or tray pack for bulk sale before shipment to the UK. New York apples are trucked to Montreal, Canada, and shipped to the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk, London Thamesport and the Port of Southampton.
Kurt Gallagher, executive director of the USAEC and Ian Forbes, partner at the UK-based Garden Marketing & PR, a public relations firms that represents USA Apples, will join Allen at the USAEC’s booth.
Upcoming, Allen says he will attend the Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference, November 2-4, 2016, to test the waters in shipping New York apples to the Netherlands.