Rice Fruit Co. is marking its 100th anniversary this season, and the Gardners, Pa.-based company has plenty to celebrate.
“We’re going to spend the year having fun, doing nice things for our customers,” vice president John Rice said.
Rice Fruit will highlight its anniversary on its website, in advertising and on select packaging, he said.
The company installed a packing line this summer that increases its capacity 30%, Rice said.
“It will enable us to pack more Honeycrisp and make sure that they don’t bruise. It doesn’t drop them in a bag, it gently rolls them in. The machine was designed with Honeycrisp in mind.”
Rice said Honeycrisp represents roughly 10% of the company’s plantings, and that percentage is growing rapidly.
“It is the most popular apple we grow, other than Kiku, and we have had very good success with it,” Rice said.
Rice Fruit is the only supplier of Kiku on the East Coast, and Rice said the company is expanding production of the variety.
“Reception has been fantastic,” he said. “It’s uniformly positive.”
Rice said the company will offer 2-pound pouches with Kikus this season. He said the high-graphic, multicolored bags allow fine printing and will highlight the fact that product is locally grown for retailers in the East.
Rice Fruit also has installed recordkeeping software that will help the company achieve compliance with the Produce Traceability Initiative.
Rice Fruit hired Peter Wolfe, a recent economics graduate from New College of Florida, in sales. Wolfe is Rice’s nephew.