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Everybody loves Honeycrisp apples — and that's why they're so expensive

Oct 9, 2015

In our little informal apple poll, Michiganders agreed: Honeycrisp apples are the tastiest apple to eat.

Unfortunately, your love for Honeycrisp apples could be the reason why they are so pricey.

Up until 2008, farmers had to pay a royalty on Honeycrisp apple seeds to the University of Minnesota, where they were first developed.

According to a University of Minnesota website, Honeycrisp apples are now enjoyed by millions, in places like Europe, New Zealand and South Africa. 

These apples are loved for a balanced sweet and tart taste and their crisp texture, and they can last up to seven months with refrigeration.

But Honeycrisps are far from perfect. The university lists some downsides, such as "bitter pit," "soft scald," the fruit's susceptibility to bruising and puncture, and its sensitive growing cycle.

These problems make the apple kind of a diva compared to other apples – and contribute to the apple’s premium price.

Royalties paid to University of Minnesota not a factor

According to Dr. Jim Luby, professor of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota, although the University collected royalties on the trees before 2008, this did not really drive the price of apples up much.

In fact, the maximum royalty charged by the University was only $1.50 per tree.

Luby's answer for the high price of these apples is simple: economics.

“As the useful life of a tree can easily be 20 years and during that time it will produce 50 to 100 apples, or more, per year, you can see the royalty cost per apple is less than a penny,” Luby said.

Luby’s answer for the high price of these apples is simple: economics.

Supplying Honeycrisps is much more difficult relative to other apples. Though other varieties may produce 90% salable fruit, Honeycrisp may only produce 60% to 70%.

While supplies can be limited, demand for Honeycrisp apples never seems to shrink, and when consumers really want something, producers can strategically raise prices.

“Why does a cup of coffee cost a dollar at McDonald's and four dollars at Starbucks?” he said. “If a consumer sees more value per dollar in the Starbucks coffee compared to the McDonald's coffee, they may still choose to buy Starbucks even though it is far more expensive per ounce.”

– Allana Akhtar, Michigan Radio Newsroom