Regional apples find loyal consumers - The Packer

Regional apples find loyal consumers

10/14/2011 11:07:00 AM
Chris Koger

Local apples aren’t a tough sell to retailers, according to Eastern apple growers and shippers.

“I think a lot of the club stores still want to have regional apples available, and that’s helping us a lot, and rightly so, with the costs of long-distance transportation,” said Chuck Andola, chief operating officer of New Paltz, N.Y.-based United Apple Sales LLC.

“We’re always going to be able to deliver along the Eastern Seaboard less than what it costs Washington, no matter what. Of course, that’s just exacerbated by increased fuel costs, which helps locally with our product. And, we have better and better quality. It’s off the tree and marketed. The East Coast is a lot bigger place than it was two years ago.”

Cost is just a part of the equation, though, said Brian Nicholson, president of Geneva, N.Y.-based Red Jacket Orchards.

“It’s everything — it’s huge,” he said.

“The retailers recognize that the New York apple industry is a very well-organized industry, and they’re focused on the consumers and are aware of the marketing efforts we make, and they appreciate that. But beyond that, they appreciate we have such a high-tonnage item and a high-quality item that is really local.”

The season has grown, as well, Nicholson said.

“They have stretched out their selling period and extended their shelving space for us, and it has helped all of us,” he said.

There has been a long-standing disagreement about what constitutes locally grown, but, for some Eastern apple shippers, “close” is close enough, said Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association.

“It’s hard to explain local and how far you push the envelope on how you define local,” he said.

“We supply markets up and down the East Coast and in the Northeast, and they all think of New York apples as local.”

Three categories fall into the “local” realm, Allen said.

“One is processing, but the other two are the commercial category and direct sales, pick-your-owns, farm markets, green markets,” he said.

“Throughout New York, that’s a huge, growing category. New York apples supply farm markets from Ohio to Boston to Maryland and Virginia. It’s huge. I look at New York City, for example, and how important those markets are for us. They have over 80 green markets in New York City and there are three apple vendors in each one of those markets. It’s huge volumes.”

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