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Hess Bros. counting on high-flavor apples to lead a strong 2021

By
Keith Loria

Hess Brothers Fruit Co. partners with exceptional growers in the Eastern United States to ensure that a great eating experience happens for every consumer, regardless of which apple variety they choose.

“Heading into the New Year, Hess Brothers Fruit Co. is poised to have a strong beginning to 2021,” said Chris Sandwick, director of marketing for the Lancaster, PA-based company. “While our overall numbers are down, on par with the rest of the country, our growers ongoing investments have ensured we’ll have a higher percentage of high-flavor apples than ever before.” 

A reduced national crop should mean stronger prices for the coming winter and spring months.  This may help offset the increased costs the industry is incurring due to operating safely in the current environment. 

“The reduced crop could allow space for newer varieties to spend time in front of consumers, something that can be difficult to come by when everyone’s coolers and shelves are full,” Sandwick said. “The category is undergoing a long transition away from traditional varieties to higher-flavored fruit. While many new apples, such as WildTwist and SnapDragon present an improved eating experience.”

The WildTwist came about with the pairing of two legendary apple varieties — combining the explosively juicy crunch of Honeycrisp with the intricate flavor of Cripps Pink. Still, Sandwick noted it takes time to get enough trial for consumers to react and change their purchasing habits.

Hess Brothers sources apples from a large network of local growers and most of the orchards that provide apples to the company are located in the mid-Atlantic region within a 300- to 400-mile radius of the facility. This allows Hess Brothers to remain “hands-on” at all times and guarantees the fruit that is purchased and shipped is always fresh.

“As we enter the first quarter of 2021, it’s important that retailers are aligned with organizations that understand controlled atmosphere storage and have sufficient capacity to handle their crop,” Sandwick said. “Fruit purchased in the new year out of regular storage could be out of condition and lead to depressed sales at the retail level. Hess Brothers Fruit Co. has long experience storing and selling well-conditioned apples through the winter and into the spring and summer months.”

In 2020, the company has seen its retail partners continue to adapt to the drastic increase in online purchases due to the COVID-19 driven pandemic, though so much has improved from this spring when everyone was caught off guard. 

“But challenges remain,” Sandwick said. “The best part of the best grocery stores is a big, beautiful produce department. ‘Fresh’ is what has long set apart the best operators. A well merchandised produce department hits all your senses and inspires people to buy and eat well.  That is missing from the digital experience.”

That has meant some thought as to what will the next generation of tools do to help recreate this visceral experience in a digital format? 

“Hess Brothers is excited to partner with our retailers to improve online food shopping through enhanced video, improved and more natural photography, and whatever else we can do to bring the passion of our category to the online environment,” Sandwick said.

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