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Macomb Co. Cider Mills, Stores See Higher Apple Prices Due to Crop Shortage

A spring freeze has resulted in the lightest apple crop since 1945, raising prices on apples and apple products at businesses like Blake's Orchard and Cider Mill, Achatz Pies and Kroger.

This fall, an apple a day may cost a bit more.

Apple prices have gone up after a spring freeze resulted in the lightest apple crop in the state since 1945, said Pete Blake, co-owner of Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill in Armada.

A week of 90-degree temperatures in March caused the trees to bloom early. Then, a series of cold April nights killed those apple blossoms.

“The trees are still fine for next year, but it takes the crop for this year,” Blake said.

Macomb-area stores like Kroger, Biggby and Achatz Handmade Pie Co. have also been affected by the crop shortage. They say they too will have to raise prices and ship in apples from out of state.

Blake’s was able to harvest 20-25 percent of their apple crop this season, expecting about 10,000 bushels. An ideal season at Blake’s would yield about 50,000 bushels.

But Blake ensures orchard patrons that there will not be a shortage of apples, candy apples or apple cider, as the orchard is buying apples and cider from orchards in West Michigan for “considerably” higher prices, resulting in a roughly 25 percent price hike this year for orchard patrons.

“We added new stuff this year because we knew it was going to be a light apple crop,” he said. “But we want to get it out there that the apples, apple cider and activities are out in full force.”

Blake recommends customers come early this fall because the orchard may run out of certain varieties of apples and products. Patrons can still pick their own apples, but Blake predicts apples in the trees may be gone by mid-October. Red raspberries are also available for customers to pick.

Achatz Pies forced to raise price of slice

Achatz Handmade Pie Co., headquartered in Chesterfield, buys about 400,000 pounds of apples each year to make roughly 200,000 pies, co-owner Wendy Achatz said.

“By the third week (of unseasonable weather), we all started biting our nails,” she said. “We knew what was going to happen when all the trees started blooming early. So, we were prepared for it and had a plan B.”

Usually, the company gets apples to make their pies from West Michigan orchards, but this year, Achatz said they will have to expand their search.

“We’re buying as many Michigan apples as we can, but we’re definitely going to have to get more from Washington and Oregon,” she said.

Achatz said apple prices have nearly doubled, causing the price of an Achatz apple pie to increase by $1.

“It’s not going to cover the whole cost, but it’s hard for the customers,” Achatz added. “We’re going to take a little hit, but we understand it’s business.”

Despite issues with crops this season, Achatz noted that company sales are up 28 percent this year.

Kroger stores expect fewer apples, higher prices

Kroger stores will continue to sell apples and apple cider, but they expect to have less supply and for prices to rise, said Dale Hollandsworth, consumer communications spokesperson for Kroger.

“We intend to continue to sell apples and cider, but, unfortunately, there will be a lot less of the Michigan products,” he said.

Kroger intends to bring in apples from other locations to fill in the gap caused by the shortage.

“Because the apple shortage is most critical right here in Michigan, Michigan apples are going to be a little tough to get,” he said. “But, one great thing about our economy and the agricultural community is that there’s still New York and Washington and other locations still growing apples.”

An additional effect the shortage will have on Kroger stores is a decrease in advertising and promotional efforts behind apple sales. There will be fewer promotions involving reduced apple prices as there have been in the past.

“I think what you’ll see probably more than any substantial price increases is less promotions and events surrounding apples,” Hollandsworth said.

Biggby adds dollar to apple cider drink

Biggby Coffee has raised prices on its Caramel Apple Cider about a dollar at all of its franchise locations. Biggby spokesperson Katie Koerner said that Biggby's cost to purchase the product have doubled.

"The cost of cider on a commercial basis went from $4.87 a gallon to $8.07 a gallon. There is no gouging. It's just a matter of supply and demand," said 23 and Van Dyke Biggby Franchise Owner Dave Danyko.

Koerner said Biggby buys a majority of its apple crops from the Mid-Michigan area, but with the decimation of the crops the company has had to moved to out-of-state sources. So not only do the apples cost more because of the shortage, but the company must now pay transportation costs to get them to its stores as well.

"We felt that we could stop offering it, but we felt that fall is synonymous with Biggby Caramel Apple Cider, so we didn't want to not offer it," she said. "We want to make our customers happy. So we decided if we were going to do that, we were going to have to go ahead and raise the price."

Marina Cracchiolo (Editor) September 17, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Will you still purchase apple cider this year or head to the apple orchard?
Frustrated Old Man September 18, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I'll drink gasoline, it's cheaper!

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