(Oct. 9) Washington growers considering a move into the burgeoning fresh-cut apple slice market have an opportunity to bypass massive capital improvement costs to do so.

Selah, Wash.-based Tree Top Inc. is offering the use of its 50,000-square-foot Selah plant with three production lines, as well as the labor to process and pack the slices. Growers must supply the apples, said Terry Morgan, contract manufacturing director.

“We’ve been in the contract manufacturing business for about 10 years and have gotten into it with more earnest lately because we have excess line time and we see this as an opportunity to expand,” Morgan said. “For years, we were building capacity and we just have too much.”

He said the company has six processing facilities on the West Coast. The Selah plant is set up to manufacture fresh, sliced apples. Tree Top, primarily an apple juice company, first offered the apple slices in 2001 to foodservice operators, supplying product for McDonald’s Apple Dippers starting in 2004. The company also sells to retailers.

Morgan said apples for the fresh-cut market aren’t plentiful, with fewer culls in the new crop.

Morgan said the most likely candidate to contract with Tree Top would be a grower with an excess of apples who is looking to get into the fresh, sliced apple market.