Crunch Time anticipates biggest SnapDragon and RubyFrost crops yet
Crunch Time Apple Growers is owned by 150 growers throughout New York state who are united with one mission — introduce new, flavorful apple varieties to the marketplace, specifically SnapDragon and RubyFrost.
“Our growers are dedicated to responsibly producing apples that our customers love,“ said Jessica Wells, executive director for the Lockport, NY-based company. “As acreage increases, so does production, which means the opportunity to expand our geographic footprint is greater, both with existing retailers and with new retailers.”
Wells was recently promoted to her executive director role, and her responsibilities shifted to managing the day-to-day operations of all aspects of the business, taking some of the load off of the board chairman.
“I was initially hired in a limited capacity in 2019 to help organize the financial side of the organization and more specifically to ensure we were meeting our contractual obligations to Cornell,” she said.
SnapDragon and RubyFrost were introduced to the marketplace less than 10 years ago, nurtured and developed by Susan Brown at Cornell University.
“In 2021, we will see our biggest crop yet, with more acreage reaching full production,” Wells said. “It appears that we will have a great crop, in terms of production, flavor and color — all better than last year.”
With the increase in production, Crunch Time Apple Growers has added to its sales team with Rice Fruit Co., a premier apple packaging and marketing facility, and anticipates the addition of one or two more.
“With the addition of Rice Fruit Co. to our sales team, we anticipate a presence at some different retailers,” Wells said. “We work with our retail partners to promote and package SnapDragon and RubyFrost in ways that work best for their business.”
The company understands that its retail partners have a plethora of choices when it comes to high-flavor premium apple varieties.
“SnapDragon and RubyFrost are both at the top of the class when it comes to quality and flavor, but they each offer something unique,” Wells said. “SnapDragon with its monster crunch, juiciness and snappy, sweet flavor, and RubyFrost providing an option to the 30 percent of consumers that prefer something that leans away from sweet, and is great for both eating and cooking while being incredibly beautiful with its deep red coloring.”
Crunch Time Apple Growers is seeing more of its retail partners stocking SnapDragon and RubyFrost for several months at a time, which is a shift from a couple years ago when a majority of retailers were stocking them for only a month or two.
“This has helped eliminate consumer frustration that comes with the inability to repeat a purchase of an apple they have fallen in love with,” Wells said.
Other recent trends have been largely influenced by changes in customer habits due to COVID-19, including consumers purchasing more online and less in bulk. In response, Crunch Time Apple growers shifted its marketing efforts a bit to accommodate these trends, and is ready to shift as customer habits shift again.
“Overall, we fared well during the pandemic,” Wells said. “Customer demand was strong and we were able to sell-out both varieties, which is good news for our grower owners. The pandemic has driven up costs considerably, from labor to packaging, which will mean price increases this season in order to make sure our growers and packers can cover their costs.”
Crunch Time is also in the process of a RubyFrost brand refresh that will reach consumers this fall.
“To be successful it takes being in tune with customer and retail trends, and the ability to adapt to those trends,” Wells said. “In addition, successful companies focus on customer experience — from a quality eating experience to excellent customer service at all levels.”