I had a cousin who worked produce at Albertsons. I asked him how he picks what he gets. He told me the distributor gets the food and they can pick from there but they have to get from that distributor. Now, they do want to be able to do local produce but you'd have to be able to meet the companies high demands for said produce and get in good with the distributor first.
I have sold considerable quantities of apples and other fruit, mostly in farmers markets.
This does not address the "how to get apples into Safeway" question but might be pertinent for some folks.
I was managing and selling from orchards at times (I either worked on the ranch or had leased the orchard), but also sold a lot of fruit which I acquired free for the picking!
Many people have fruit and nut trees on their property which they do not care for nor harvest but incidentally. Usually they were very amenable to my removing the fruit "to avoid the mess it makes", especially when I would include as part of the deal a return when the trees are dormant to prune them.
Having been neglected, the trees had not been sprayed. This was in California and New Mexico, so much of this unsprayed and untended fruit was still cosmetically acceptable to consumers (which would likely not be the case in the East).
As a small producer with many crops, and therefore not a lot of any one item, I could not provide the quantity of anything as desired by stores such as Safeway or Whole Foods, but the local small grocery stores were very amenable. And helping them compete with the big chains by providing them with organic and healthy produce was something I liked.
When I had a lot of fruit, as was the case with the orchard in New Mexico, I would sell much of it as is, in the farmers markets, but also processed a lot of it into purée. That sold like hotcakes. If you're able to arrange for the use of a commercial kitchen, you can increase the value of the apple (etc.) crop by canning it. The resulting product sells well to small shops and organic food stores as well as farmers markets.
10 Podcast Review of the book Just Enough by Azby Brown