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Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

Commodity Apple Profile

By Malinda Geisler, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University.

Profile revised December 2013 by Diane Huntrods, AgMRC, Iowa State University.


Overview
Apples are one of the most valuable fruit crops in the United States. The 2012 apple crop was valued at nearly $3.1 billion, up from more than $2.8 billion the previous year. The utilized apple crop was nearly 9.0 billion pounds, down from more than 9.3 billion pounds in 2011.  (NASS 2013)

Every state in the United States grows apples, and 29 states raise apples commercially. Washington State produces about 70 percent of the apples in the United States. Other leading states include New York, Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.  (NASS 2013)

Background
While the actual origin of apples is not known, it is likely the apple tree originated between the Caspian and the Black Seas. There is proof that man has enjoyed apples for at least 750,000 years. Apples were a favorite of the ancient Romans and Greeks.

Early settlers of the United States brought apple seeds with them. According to records belonging to the Massachusetts Bay Company, apples were grown in New England as early as 1630. As the United States was settled, traders, missionaries and Native Americans transported apple seeds west. John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed, was responsible for extensive apple tree plantings in the Midwest.
 
Demand – Consumption
Apples are the second most consumed fruit (fresh and processed uses combined), following oranges. In 2012 average U.S. per person consumption of all forms of apples had increased to about 44 pounds. The per person consumption of apple juice and cider increased to 22.3 pounds, up from 20.9 pounds in 2011. The consumption of fresh market apples in 2012 accounted for 16 pounds, up from 15.4 pounds the previous year.  (ERS 2013)

Factors contributing to increased apple and apple product consumption include new varieties, rising incomes, production expansion in the United States, a growing and more diverse population, products that better meet consumer lifestyles and increased awareness of including fruit in a healthy diet.

U.S. apple growers received a record average price of $0.34 per pound in 2012 for fresh market apples compared to $0.30 per pound in 2011 (NASS 2013). In 2011, the value of apples for processing was $338 million, according to the USDA.

Washington State produces about 40 percent of the nation’s apple juice and cider. New York is the top state for canned apple products, processing around 35 percent of all canned apples.

Mott’s is known as the leading producer of branded applesauce and apple juice in the United States. Mott’s Inc. is a leading brand of Plano, Texas-based Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, a subsidiary division of London-based Cadbury Schweppes plc.

Another leading producer of apple juice and products is Tree Top, based in Selah, Washington. Tree Top is a grower-owned cooperative with more than 1,000 grower-owners in the Northwestern United States.

Production
More than 7,500 varieties of apples are grown worldwide, and about 2,500 of these varieties are raised in the United States.

Out of almost 100 varieties of apples grown commercially in the United States, 15 popular varieties accounted for more than 90 percent of the 2006 U.S. production:

  • Red Delicious
  • Gala
  • Golden Delicious
  • Granny Smith
  • Fuji
  • McIntosh
  • Rome
  • Empire
  • York
  • Jonathan
  • Idared
  • Cortland
  • Stayman
  • Newtown
  • Northern Spy

Other commonly grown varieties regarded as up-and-coming "new" varieties by the industry include Braeburn, Cameo, Ginger Gold, HoneyCrisp and Pink Lady. The apple trade measures apples in 42-pound carton increments.

China leads the world in apple production, harvesting a record 38 million tons in 2012, followed by the United States. Other leading countries are the European Union (11.3 million tons), Turkey (a record 2.9 million tons) and Chile (1.3 million tons). Global apple production in 2012 was estimated at a record 67.5 million metric tons.  (FAS 2013)

Exports
Over the past decade, U.S. apple exports have increased because of liberalization of export markets, substantial industry export promotion efforts and increased disposable income in developing countries. However, in the last few years, U.S. market share of total world apple exports has dropped. China, the European Union and New Zealand have gained market share, while the U.S. market share of exports has declined.

In 2012 the United States exported more than 1.9 billion pounds of fresh apples, including organic apples, a 5 percent increase from the previous year. The apples were valued at nearly $1.1 billion, a 14 percent rise from 2011. Mexico ranked as the top export market, purchasing U.S. apples valued at more than $284.4 million, followed by Canada, which purchased apples valued at nearly $193.1 million. Other leading export markets for U.S. apples were India, Taiwan and Hong Kong.  (FAS)

Exports of U.S. apple juice in 2012 totaled more than 8.9 million single-strength gallons and were valued at nearly $37.4 million. Canada was the largest market for the juice, followed by South Korea and Japan.  (FAS)

Imports
Fresh apple imports in 2012 totaled 183,453 metric tons, a 24 percent increase from the previous year. The value of fresh apple imports was more than $163.6 million, a 23 percent rise from 2011. The leading supplier was Chile, followed by New Zealand and Canada.  (FAS)

The United States imported more than 471.4 million single-strength gallons of apple juice in 2012 valued at more than $745.9 million. The top source was China, followed by Argentina and Chile. Imports are mostly concentrated non-frozen.  (FAS)

Due to the surge of low-priced apple juice from China, the United States imposed antidumping duties on all imports of Chinese non-frozen apple juice concentrate in May 2000. The antidumping duties range from 9 percent to 52 percent. The antidumping duties were reviewed by the U.S. International Trade Commission in 2005. The existing order on imports of certain non-frozen concentrated apple juice from China remain.

Niche Markets
Organic
In 2008, 17,626 acres were certified for organic apple production, up from 12,772 acres in 2005. Washington State accounted for 73 percent of the nation’s certified organic apple acres, followed by California and Arizona.

To USDA, certified organic means "agricultural products have been grown and processed according to specific standards of various state and private certification organizations." Certifying agents review farm applications and qualified inspectors conduct annual on-site inspections. Farm records track all management practices and materials used in organic production.

Except for operations with gross agricultural incomes of $5,000 or less, USDA-accredited certifying agents must certify farm and processing operations that grow and process organic foods. A certified operation must have a written Organic Farm Plan available to the public on request. The USDA Organic Seal may appear on organic apples and other 100 percent organic products, signs or advertising.

Pick your own
Another common marketing method for apples is pick-your-own. A pick-your-own, or U-pick, farm allows consumers to harvest produce themselves. Therefore, the farm requires less labor for harvesting. Tasks such as grading, storing and packing are eliminated.

There are some disadvantages to a pick-your-own farm. Like many ag enterprises, this type of operation requires long working hours. And most pick-your-own business takes place on weekends. It usually requires more liability insurance. To attract customers, the farm's location needs to be appealing. Parking is another critical factor and should be within reasonable walking distance of the production site. Poor weather can keep customers from visiting the farm.

By using uniform containers, produce may be sold by weight. If customers bring their own containers, the containers have to be weighed before harvesting. Another option is pricing by each item. Pricing on a per item basis works for apples but not for other produce such as berries.

Online Ordering
An affordable method to market new products directly to consumers is for orchards to establish their own websites. More than 77 percent of the U.S. population has Internet access, and more of these people are shopping online. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, total e-commerce retail sales during 2010 were almost $169 billion.
 
Competitiveness
The United States faces increasing competition from foreign producers of apples, including Chile, Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, the European Union and eastern European countries. Foreign competition affects the market price and sale of apples in the United States.

The development of apple cultivars for new and traditional markets has contributed to much of the industry’s growth and economic viability. That is why it is important for the U.S. apple industry to continue the rapid deployment of new, viable apple cultivars.

Apples face increased competition from imports of other fruits, such as grapes, peaches, nectarines and plums from Chile. More choices for consumers in supermarkets have led to greater competition for domestically produced fruits.
 

Sources

Demographic Profile of Apple Consumption in the United States, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA, 2005 - This report reviews the fresh apple market in the United States.

E-stats, U.S. Census Bureau.

Food Availability Data System, ERS, USDA.

Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, ERS, USDA.

Global Agricultural Trade System, Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), USDA.

ITC Makes Affirmative Determination in Five-Year (Sunset) Review Concerning Certain Non-Frozen Concentrated Apple Juice From China, International Trade Commission, 2005.

Mott's

The National Organic Program

Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts, National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA.

Organic Production, ERS, USDA.

Tree Top

U.S. Apple Association

U.S. Wins WTO Case against Japan’s Restrictions on U.S. Apples, FASonline, Horticultural & Tropical Products Division, USDA.

Washington Apple Country History
 

Links checked July 2013.
 

 

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