Club Variety Apples- Why You Can't Find Them At The Nursery

Nov 13, 2020

Have you been perusing nursery catalogs to purchase apple trees of your favorite varieties that you're finding in the grocery store? I'm talking about new favorites like Pink Lady, Opal, Jazz, Envy, Kanzi, and Cosmic Crisp. Unfortunately, you won't find any of these at mailorder nurseries or local garden centers.

These apples are so-called club varieties or managed varieties. The management has to do with protecting intellectual property. To explain what these are, let me give you a brief history of another favorite apple, Honeycrisp.

Honeycrisp was developed at the University of Minnesota and was patented. The university licensed propagation to many nurseries and any grower could purchase trees as long as they were willing to pay the 75 cents per tree royalty. 20 years ago Honeycrisp sold in stores for a significant premium. Not many growers had trees and it was and remains a difficult variety to grow well. Demand exceeded supply at prices were high. Today honey crisp is widely available and is not command to high price in the marketplace. Supply sometimes exceeds demand because it is widely planted.

Club varieties are managed differently. Growers don't actually buy trees, it's more of a lease arrangement. Growers are selected based on expertise and orchard locations. Typically fruit has to meet minimum standards set by the managing group to be sold under the trade name.

The idea with club varieties is to keep supply and demand closer balanced to obtained an ongoing higher price for premium quality fruit. Perhaps that isn't great news for backyard orchardist but it does mean an ongoing supply of a broad array of high-quality apples available for purchase in your favorite grocery stores.