Relationships are key to Greenridge Fruit’s success
Greenridge Fruit, which specializes in apples, has been around for more than 30 years and experienced the ups, downs, and changes that have occurred in the industry during that time.
“Some of the biggest changes have been the varieties and which ones have come into favor and which have fallen out,” said Nate Wood, sales director of the Grand Rapids, MI-based company. “Red Delicious was the No. 1 variety for a long time, but with the introduction of new varieties such as Gala, Honeycrisp and Fuji, it has fallen from that top spot. Gala has moved into that highest volume mover in recent years providing a sweeter, better eating experience, but at a similar value. Honeycrisp is a stranger to no one that continues to gain market share year-over-year and shows no signs of slowing down.”
Once the 2021 harvest kicked off, Greenridge Fruit saw business go out steady and stay that way.
“The crop in Michigan was a smaller crop, which inevitably makes it so that things are not as fast paced as during a larger crop year,” Wood said. “We have felt very blessed this year to continue to be able to service our customers and provide them with the same service levels that we always have.”
Since apple trees have the tendency to be biannual yielding — if a tree has a light crop one year it will usually come back the following season with a larger crop — he’s expecting a better crop in 2022.
“That is of course assuming that there are no weather events that cause the crop to be smaller,” Wood said. “There are really far too many variables to speculate about what the crop next year will look like, but with our crop being smaller this year, the thought would be that we could have a larger crop harvested in the fall of 2022.”
The company will ship apples all through the winter and into the spring, but since the apples are harvested in the fall, there are many factors that go into ensuring that the apples are still in excellent eating condition when it comes time to ship them in the winter and spring.
“The key is to make sure the apples are picked at the right time, cooled and stored in Controlled Atmosphere, and then graded to make sure only the best get out to our customers,” Wood said. “Relationships in this category will make or break you and those relationships are solidified by always being honest and communicating.”
COVID-19 has certainly played a role in pushing trends, and one of the biggest the company has noticed is an increased demand on packaged product.
“Bagged apples have been the main portion of our business for several years, but demand has only gotten stronger for bagged apples as consumers desire to have product that is not being handled by anyone else,” Wood said. “The emergence of new varieties is another trend that continues to grow. Evercrisp is among those new varieties that is continuing to impress consumers.”
In addition to the COVID-19-related challenges, labor across all segments continue to be the largest challenges Greenridge Fruit is seeing.
“With everyone being short on labor it creates longer lead times and we have to continue to plan and forecast better,” Wood said. “Challenges and issues happen to everyone, but how you communicate those to your customer is what can make that a good relationship and not just a transaction.”
In order to continue to offer its customers the best quality, the company plans to upgrade the electronic grading system on its packing line into a state of art, Globalscan 7 system from MAF RODA.
“This will continue to allow us to provide the best possible quality for our customer while not put any more stress on our current labor situation,” Wood said. “Over the past several years, we have brought on additional staff to take care of key areas as we continue to grow, and we are always looking other quality individuals that can help us continue to move forward.”