A Changing of the Apple Guard: Gala’s in, Red Delicious Is Out

New projections from the U.S. Apple Association find that the Red Delicious Apple is losing momentum among U.S. consumers, putting Gala on top, and the Honeycrisp variant not far behind.

Apple is always in the news, it seems. But for once, we have a news story that talks about the actual fruit—not the company inspired by it.

The U.S. Apple Association recently revealed that the Red Delicious apple, a ruby-colored stalwart of the orchard, has fallen off the top of the tree. Taking its place is the Gala apple, a mixed-color hybrid apple with a mild flavor that has been growing in popularity in recent years. The association said in a recent news release that the switch was literally decades in the making—the Red Delicious had been America’s most popular apple for more than 50 years.

“The rise in production of newer varieties of apples aimed at the fresh consumption domestic market has caused demand for Red Delicious to decline,” USApple Director of Regulatory and Industry Affairs Mark Seetin stated.

The Gala’s rise to mainstream success took a lengthy route, first coming to life in the 1930s in New Zealand. The variant grew in success over time, in part because of its taste, and in part because it’s an easy kind of apple to grow. Meanwhile, the Red Delicious’ reputation had declined in the U.S. in recent years; on Wednesday, Slate writer Rebecca Onion put her distaste of the apple as such: “The loathsome fruit has finally slipped from its spot as the dominant apple in American orchards, and not a moment too soon.”

However, Seetin emphasized that even though the Red Delicious had declined in popularity in the U.S., he called it “important in the export market, where it makes up roughly half of our apple exports.”

Of course, while the Gala is gaining steam, it’s not the only thing happening in the world of apples. Some other noteworthy facts about the modern apple market:

The up-and-comer: The Honeycrisp apple, a cultivated variant of apple produced by the University of Minnesota, has only been sold in stores for the past two decades and often costs more than its competition, but its sweet-tart taste and firm texture have helped the apple surge in popularity in recent years. USApple says the variant is expected to move into the top five variants this year and could even hit the top three within the next couple of years.

Where the apples come from. The U.S. Apple Association represents 7,500 apple producers who are responsible for growing 240 million bushels of apples each year, an estimated $4 billion crop annually according to the organization. The three most popular states for apple growth are Washington, New York, and Michigan.

Export power. For every four apples that the American apple industry produces, one of them goes to another market, such as Mexico, Canada, or India. The emphasis on trade policy in recent months has put the industry in something of a tough spot over the past year, as countries have placed retaliatory tariffs on American apples. According to USA Today, USApple Chair Mark Boyer recently called it “one of the most challenging and unusual years in the 123-year history” of the trade group.

The Gala apple is only about 80 years old. (bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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