Eating apples used to be a pretty straightforward endeavor. Usually offered as part of your school lunch, the fruit was a crunchy, sweet way to end your meal of gray meatloaf or squishy peanut butter and jelly. Now, walk into the produce section of your favorite grocer and you'll be barraged with apple choices — Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith.
According to the U.S. Apple Association, more than 100 varieties of apples are grown commercially in the United States, with less than a dozen making up for 90 percent of the consumer market. So why introduce yet another apple?
The Pazazz is grown in Minnesota by Honeybear Brands, the same people who grow the popular Honeycrisp. In fact, Pazazz is a descendant of that apple, although it's more of a balanced sweet-tart fruit than its parent.
According to Don Roper, vice president of marketing at Honeybear, that flavor profile took the apple growers more than a decade to get right. "After Honeycrisp came out 15 years ago, we started all these processes. You have to be so patient to bring these things to market. This apple has been in the making for over ten years."
Before the Pazazz can be introduced to the world, there's still some taste-testing to be done.
The apple is being introduced in a few cities before its national launch, and Miami is one of a select number of locations handpicked (so to speak) to try the fruit. Roper and his wife Sue will personally demo the Pazazz at select Publix stores in South Florida this weekend and to get feedback on the apple on everything from sweetness to crunch. Roper explains why he's eager to get to Miami. "There was a lot of test marketing; now we're hitting all of Publix's major markets. Miami is a great apple town, and there are a lot of snowbirds here that come from apple states like New York."
The Honeybear vice president also says Miamians tend to be healthy eaters who consume a lot of produce in general. Besides, he also quips that it's minus-6 degrees in Minnesota and a little business trip to Miami never hurt anyone.
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Roper recalls a time when there were only a few apples on the market. "You had the iconic red delicious and the Granny Smith. They did really well in the production channel, but they didn't give a good eating experience." Then came the Honeycrisp. Released in 1991, it caused a sensation because of its juicy sweetness. To Roper, it was a game-changer in the apple industry. "All of a sudden, apples were exciting. People were willing to pay for flavor. That was an aha moment in the apple industry." According to Roper, there are more than 3,000 apple varieties worldwide, and there's one for every taste.
Choosing your perfect apple is like selecting a fine wine, says the apple exec. "The apple spectrum is sweet to tart. Fuji and Gala apples are on the sweet side of the spectrum, while Granny Smith and Braeburn are on the tart side. Most people want an apple that has complexity, with both of those flavors in the apple. You want a bit of acid so you're getting both sweet and tart."
Then there's the crunch factor, what Roper calls the most endearing trait of an apple. "It's that crunch texture that pops at you. That's the excitement when you eat an apple." Roper says the Pazazz has both the flavor and crunchability that could make it the perfect apple. If you want to try the Pazazz yourself — and talk apples with the Ropers — here's the Publix appearance schedule for this weekend:
- Friday, January 15 (11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.), Publix Fifth Ave Shops (1968 Fifth Ave., Boca Raton)
- Friday, January 15 (3:30 to 6 p.m.), Publix Greenwise Market (21230 Saint Andrew Blvd., Boca Raton)
- Saturday, January 16 (11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.), Publix at Skylake Mall (1700 NE Miami Gardens Dr., North Miami Beach)
- Saturday, January 16 (11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.), Publix Aventura (Loehman's Fashion Island at 18995 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura)