Nov 12, 2018
Maine’s Moran pinpoints consumer apple preferences

Renae Moran, an associate professor of pomology at the University of Maine and a fruit tree specialist with UMaine Cooperative Extension, was interviewed by the Bangor Daily News for an article about changes in consumer preferences for different apple varieties.

The Red Delicious has been the most popular variety of apple in the United States for decades, only recently losing the spot to the Gala. And while there are up to 3,000 apple varieties in Maine and 20,000 in the entire country, only a handful meet market criteria for sale in supermarkets, like the ability to produce a consistent and prolific crop every year, the article states. The Red Delicious has been bred for maximum visual traits, but sometimes taste was sacrificed along the way, which is now reflected in changing consumer preferences.

“In the 1990s, consumers became more discriminating,” said Moran. “We’re just starting to see the impact on the top 10 varieties. It takes a long time for an apple to be knocked off its top spot.” The Red Delicious was never the most popular apple in Maine or the rest of New England, with the McIntosh taking that place after surviving the harsh winter of 1934–35.

“It became cold very suddenly in December, before trees had a chance to harden off and a lot of trees died. The McIntosh survived, and that’s when growers started planting it,” Moran said. The Mac is still the most popular variety in Maine, but Moran predicts other varieties like the Honeycrisp will overtake it in popularity within the next 10 or 20 years. And many more varieties are available to consumers willing to look beyond the slowly changing selection at supermarkets and venture to farm stands and orchards, where Moran finds favorites like the SnowSweet and Crimson Crisp.

The article recommends consumers ask growers for a variety they might not have tried before.

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