Crunch Time Apple Growers expects significant increase in apple production

applepickers Crunch Time Apple Growers is a cooperative of 147 growers spread throughout New York State who are united with the mission to introduce new, flavorful apple varieties to the marketplace.

Its farmers are dedicated to producing delicious, naturally grown contemporary apple varieties people love and that philosophy has applied through the coronavirus pandemic.

“Crunch Time Apple growers is as committed to delivery of a safe, healthy product now, during the COVID pandemic as we were before,” said Jessica Wells, a spokesperson for the Lockport, NY-based company. “Additionally, our growers are committed to keeping their employees safe and healthy by following state and local guidelines for operating during the pandemic.”

Since the pandemic, the company saw a shift away from bulk sales to more bagged fruit and it anticipates that this trend will continue.

“One of the biggest challenges we face is the rapid rotation of apple varieties through retail stores,” Wells said. “Oftentimes, consumers don’t have the opportunity to be repeat customers; extended shelf-time over a 3-4 month period allows consumers to purchase again. Especially with COVID concerns, shoppers are not going to the store as frequently and are purchasing larger quantities, making the cycle for a repeat purchase four weeks or even more—it’s important for customers to the have the opportunity to purchase again.”

Long-term success, she added, will require an exceptional product. Crunch Time is and always has been excited about both SnapDragon and RubyFrost as exceptional apples. The apples were developed by Cornell University specifically for the climate in the East, particularly that of New York State.

“Currently, all Crunch Time commercial growers are located in New York state and consumers take comfort in knowing where their food comes from, and can have confidence in the families that are growing SnapDragon and RubyFrost,” Wells said. “SnapDragon is already seeing strong interest from repeat customers as we head into the 2020 harvest and Crunch Time is working with our sales agents to get SnapDragon and RubyFrost out there where people can find them.”

Speaking of the harvest, things look “awesome” so far this summer and the company expects a significant increase of up to 30 percent in production this year as growers have more acreage reaching maturity.

“This increase in production will allow us to reach more consumers in more regions,” Wells said. “We’ve got a huge consumer following, generated by years of sampling, social media buzz and general marketing efforts. The biggest challenge is making sure these consumers have access to the apples, in every region, all-season long.”

Cooperation with retail partners—through the sales agents—is key in effectively marketing Curnch Time brands.

“This cooperative effort starts with offering a variety of packaging styles in order to meet a retailer’s needs,” Wells said. “Once a retailer is on-board, Crunch Time will help drive customers into their stores using geo-targeted social media posts and other custom programs developed in conjunction with retailers and sales agents.”  

Crunch Time had 32.5 million social media impressions across all platforms during the 2019-2020 marketing season. Geo-targeting was employed for 31 different retailers, generating 20 million impressions with a direct reach of 6 million. In fact, geo-targeting helped drive volume growth of 78 percent for SnapDragon at one Southeast retailer and 25 percent volume growth for SnapDragon at one Northeast retailer.

Crunch Time works with retailers to develop promotional programs that work for them.

“Utilizing available point-of-purchase displays and promotional materials and offering sampling are two fairly simple things that prompt consumers to pick-up a particular variety of apples for the first time,” Wells said. “When the apple is exceptional in flavor and crunch, the customer will come back looking for more, so availability is the key.”

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