MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s one of Minnesota’s most popular inventions: The Honeycrisp apple.
In some stores, it can be twice the price of other apples. According to the USDA, a pound of Honeycrisp averaged $2.46 per pound last week, compared to $1.22 per pound for Red Delicious and $1.25 per pound for Gala.
And, that had some Good Question viewers wondering: Why are Honeycrisp apples more expensive? Good Question.
“What it really comes down to is this is a more difficult apple to grow,” says David Beford, a University of Minnesota horticulturalist and one of the inventors of the Honeycrisp.
He says that means consumers have to pay more or growers will stop growing it – and so far, Honeycrisp lovers have been willing to pay.
Doug Harvey co-owns Fireside Orchard and Gardens in Northfield with his brother, Todd. He says the price of the Honeycrisp is determined by supply and demand.
“Are you willing to pay for it?” he says. “People want absolute high quality and the Honeycrisp is one of those apples that when you bite in it, it has explosive behavior,” Doug Harvey says.
Five years ago, the U.S. Apple Association didn’t track the Honeycrisp, according to Mark Seetin of the U.S. Apple Association. Now, it’s the second most popular variety sold in stores. Gala is first.
But, that doesn’t mean it’s the most popular apple to grow. According the U.S. Apple and the USDA, 24 percent of apples produced in the U.S. were Red Delicious, 18 percent were Gala and six percent were Honeycrisp. Fuji, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious fell in between.
Part of that reason is the Honeycrisp can be more finicky when comes to growing and picking, according to Dennis Courtier, owner of Pepin Heights Orchards in Lake City. The characteristics that people enjoy about the apple — its thinner skin and juicy cells — make it more susceptible to damage.
“There’s more labor involved in growing Honeycrisp,” says Courtier.
He’s heard estimates that half the Honeycrisp grown on trees can ultimately be sold, compared to 85 to 90 percent of the heartier Red Delicious variety.
Others point out it could take a while before supply catches up with demand. Todd Harvey says people are always surprised to hear how long it takes to grow a new apple variety.
“This happens all the time. There will be an announcement about a new apple on Saturday and Sunday, people come to the store and say ‘Where’s the new apple,'” Todd says. “Well, I have to order the trees. That’ll take two years and then plant them and in three years, I might be able to start selling.”