Crunch Time Apple Growers offer SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples
Crunch Time Apple Growers is comprised of 150 growers in New York State. When the company was formed, it was granted an exclusive license to grow and market SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples in North America.
“These two apple varieties are the entire focus of the company,” said Jessica Wells, executive director of the Lockport, NY-based company. “The company has learned a lot in the last 10 years about marketing premium apples to consumers and to retailers and we’re excited to continue learning as the industry evolves.”
Between the two varieties, Crunch Time Apple Growers have about 1,100 acres in production right now, with 70 percent of it being SnapDragon. Another 200 acres will come into production in the next 2-4 years. SnapDragon did incredibly well last year, with double-digit growth in both revenue and volume.
“Many of our retailers now keep SnapDragon on the shelves all season long, and customers are on board buying regularly,” Wells said. “RubyFrost held its own, with strong growth at several of our top retailers. RubyFrost isn’t an apple that appeals to everyone, those to whom it does appeal, become raving fans with its crispy texture, slightly tart flavor and beautiful color.”
The company expects continued strong growth with SnapDragon in 2022, with some retailers making plans to bring them in as a regular offering for the first time this season.
“As of now, the SnapDragon and RubyFrost crops look great across the board with no major weather events so far and barring that, production is expected to be up 25 percent this season,” Wells said. “We will continue to support all our retailers with regional marketing efforts and retailer-specific efforts where appropriate.”
There are a lot of opportunities to grow both varieties, but Wells sees the biggest opportunity for growth in the next year is to expand business within existing retailers. “Last season we had a lot of success with more retailers than ever stocking SnapDragon on their shelves the entire season and we expect that to continue,” she said. “However, many of our retailers have not yet put SnapDragon and/or RubyFrost in all of their stores, so this is a big opportunity for us.”
With a lot of different apple varieties on the market right now, standing out among the crowd of fresh, new varieties takes not only a great product, but also a lot of work, and Crunch Time focuses its efforts on that.
“Give customers a chance to discover new things — a new apple on the shelf won’t likely sell itself — signage, display and sampling all push customers to try something new,” Wells said. “Give them a chance to be repeat buyers and stock the apples longer. If an apple is only in a store for a few weeks, it gives the customers less opportunity to be a repeat customer of something they found they like.”
In addition to getting retailers to offer the duo of apples, Crunch Time also faces some obvious industry issues.
“It seems like a lot of the other challenges we’re facing are similar to those being faced by every segment — labor shortages, input costs, transportation, etc.,” Wells said. “Fortunately, with our apples being grown solely in New York state, we have a transportation advantage when delivering to our East Coast retailers.”
In the months ahead, the company is forming some new and exciting partnerships this season and is looking forward to kicking off the new season with this fall’s harvest.