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For Rice Fruit Co. Hunts Point is passion, produce and partners

By
Keith Loria

Rice Fruit Co., located in the heart of Pennsylvania’s apple country, is looking back at 2020 as a year that reinforced its commitment to food safety, the health and well-being of its staff, and flexibility to pack what the customer needs. 

“The past year has challenged what constitutes ‘normal’ when it comes to sales movement,” said Brenda Briggs, vice president of sales and marketing for the Gardners, PA-based company. “There have been quiet periods with slow sales due to various lockdowns, but the past few months we have had strong demand for our fresh, local apples.”

This began with a holiday push, and coupled with more families at home and online ordering, the demand for fresh apples has been high.

“We have had to make quick decisions to stay in front of the many variables at play in our current economy,” Briggs said. “Our ability to receive an order and deliver same-day to the Hunts Point Market has ensured that the customer is getting exactly what they need — whatever product that may be. And in an ever-changing world, there is value in that flexibility and quick turn-around. We talk with D’Arrigo almost daily to stay in the pulse of the market, and pack accordingly.”

Rice Fruit Co. and D’Arrigo Brothers have been working together since 1986 and are proud to be heading into its 35th year in partnership.  

“The Hunts Point Market is filled with passion, produce, and, for us here at Rice — partners that feel like family,” Briggs said. “These relationships build from decade to decade and strengthen through generations. There is history at the Hunts Point Market, and we are proud to be a part of it all.”

As a fresh apple supplier situated five hours from Hunts Point, the company reviews available inventory with D’Arrigo every morning to ensure the inventory is fresh and fully stocked for whatever the customer may need, and many times pack fresh to order and deliver same-day.

“Hunts Point is bustling with energy, produce and people. The key to success in any situation, anywhere, is to build relationships based on mutual goals, values and trust,” Briggs said. “Our long alliance with D’Arrigo Brothers has brought a strong following of diverse customers in the greater New York City market who have come to know our label for consistency and quality.”

Rice Fruit Co., is in its third season of a partnership with Ocean Crisp of Nova Scotia bringing their Honeycrisp apples into the American market.

“Their maritime climate grows a beautiful Honeycrisp, and these can currently be found on the D’Arrigo Brother’s shelf,” Briggs said.

As a supplier, Rice Fruit Co. stays in constant communication to share what is fresh, local, in-season, and available.

“Retailers can count on our products to fill their shelves with a premium product,” Briggs said. “There is great value in information sharing to stay in front of trends in flavors, packaging and customer feedback. It is also important for the retailer to understand the challenges growers may face from Mother Nature — from smaller sized crops, or smaller-sized fruit. It is important to work together to make sure both the grower and the customer are taken care of.”

It used to be that people came to the market, but Briggs noted that the market must go to the people in today’s world.

“To support the efforts in online ordering and delivery services, we have tried new packaging options to connect in new ways and make sure to share our family’s business long, rich history in agriculture,” she said. “As more generations are removed from family farms, we find it ever-more important to tell our stories and share what we do. The Rice family has been farming since the late 1700’s, and while trends in varieties come and go, our commitment to the land and growing the best-tasting apples remains the same.”

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