Consumers will have a bigger bite of New York’s Crunch Time apples in 2018-19.
Volumes are increasing for the grower-owned organization’s SnapDragon and RubyFrost varieties, grown exclusively in New York.
The varieties looked beautiful on the tree in mid-August, said Joel Crist, with Crist Bros. Orchards in Walden, N.Y., and chairman of the board for Crunch Time Apple Growers, Wolcott, N.Y.
Combined production for the two varieties could increase about 30% this year, he said.
Formed in 2010, Crunch Time Apple Growers is a grower-owned company with the mission of introducing exclusive, high-flavor apple varieties to the marketplace.
In partnership with Cornell University, Crunch Time released SnapDragon and RubyFrost to the public in 2013 after initial plantings in 2011.
Crunch Time has a licensing agreement with Cornell that gives it rights for naming, growing, marketing and selling SnapDragon and RubyFrost, both of which were developed by Cornell University apple breeder Dr. Susan Brown.
Industry estimates call for New York apple growers to produce about 150,000 cartons or more of SnapDragon and 92,000 cartons of RubyFrost in 2018, said Rena Montedoro, vice president of sales and marketing for Crunch Time.
“The crop looks really good,” she said, noting that those estimates could grow as the fruit on the trees continues to size well with recent rain.
Nearly 150 growers across the state produce the Crunch Time varieties. The varieties are sold by six shippers in New York and Belleharvest Sales in Michigan, she said.
Crunch Time Apple Growers has stepped up its marketing program, said John Teeple, owner of Teeple Farms, Wolcott.
“With the volume that is coming, I think it is going to be a good match (for the market),” he said.
The premium varieties have distinctive characteristics, Montedoro said.
A descendant of Honeycrisp, SnapDragon is very sweet and bursting with juice and crunch and has a hint of vanilla spice, according to the group’s website.
RubyFrost apples, typically sizing a little better than SnapDragon, are a balance of sweet and tart, deep and rich with a hearty crunch and ideal crisp texture. They have a deep ruby color and are very uniform in color, Montedoro said.
“We had tremendous success last year with RubyFrost,” she said.
SnapDragon will be marketed from mid-October through December, while RubyFrost will be marketed out of storage beginning in January and continuing into the summer of 2019. The flavor profile of RubyFrost benefits from cold storage, she said.
“When it comes out it is sweet and extremely juicy,” she said.
Sales for the two varieties are mainly focused on the northeast, but customers range as far west as California, Montedoro said.
“This year we are picking up more traction in the southern states,” she said.
SnapDragon and RubyFrost have unique marketing programs and support behind them, said Jim Allen, vice president of marketing for New York Apple Sales, Glenmont, N.Y.
Attributes of both apples are good taste, crunch and good coloring, Allen said.
“We probably market more SnapDragon and RubyFrost than anybody,” he said. “We have five or six packinghouses that pack those varieties,” he said.
Crunch Time is very active with marketing direct to consumers, Montedoro said.
“We have invested a lot of money and time into consumer advertising,” she said. “We feel the real benefit to our retailers is providing them consumers,” she said.
The company has expanded its social media influence dramatically, she said, with brand awareness rising rapidly in the past year.
“For a relatively new brand, we have made remarkable progress,” she said.
There is more to come. Volume will climb again next year as bearing acreage comes online, she said.