Two years after the company was created, All Fresh-branded apples finally will appear in stores this season.
It was announced in the fall of 2011 that All Fresh GPS LLC had been formed as a joint venture of Michigan Fresh Marketing LLC and RidgeKing Apple Packing & Storage, both based in Belding, Mich., and Deerfield-based Applewood Orchards Inc.
The agreement was reached too late for the 2011 crop, and the 2012 crop was all but wiped out by frost and drought.
“We looked around and said, ‘Do we really want to launch in a down year?’” said Joel Heeren, All Fresh production manager.
“Everyone knew volume wouldn’t be there. We wanted to begin with a success story — the resurgence of Michigan apples — so we put it on hold.”
“As it appears now, we have a nice crop coming in,” said Scott Swindeman, All Fresh partner and vice president of Applewood Orchards.
“All varieties look good. We should have a nice mix of sizes. It should be a very good crop.”
Swindeman said All Fresh’s partners own and operate more than 1,500 acres of apples that produce more than 20% of Michigan’s fresh apple production.
Harvest should start around Aug. 22 with ginger golds and paula reds, said Swindeman, who added that the company would have significant volume around Sept. 20.
All Fresh partners expect to have two new packing facilities on line in time for this year’s crop.
Swindeman said the new facilities will more than double the company’s packing capacity.
Heeren said the new facilities also will offer better color sorting and enhanced food safety measures. The first construction project is expected to be completed by Aug. 1.
The other is part of a $22 million, 170,000-square-foot construction project in Alpine Township that will relocate the headquarters of Heeren Bros. Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich., and consolidate it with the packer-shipper’s distribution center, storage facilities and two packing facilities, including RidgeKing.
The RidgeKing packing facility and All Fresh sales offices are expected to be completed by the end of September, while the rest of the project should be completed in October, said Hal Roy, chief executive officer of Heeren Bros.
“It’s coming along,” Roy said of the project, which originally was scheduled to be done in August.
Roy said Heeren Bros. intends to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification for the facility, which has energy-saving features.
“The buildings we’re replacing were built in the 1960s and in some areas are still using 1960s technology,” he said.
“We’ll be able to operate our rooms more efficiently. We won’t have peak demands on electricity. We can balance it.”
Roy said the facility’s improved layout also will improve labor efficiency.