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Crunch Time flourishing with two specialty apple varieties

By
Tad Thompson

With so many new, flavorful apple varieties competing for retail shelf space, many retailers are tempted to rotate these varieties to give their consumers the opportunity to sample diverse tastes.

This may be an educational process for consumers, but the philosophy may also fall short on maximizing apple sales, while drawing repeat customers to a store.

Snap Dragon appleNew York apple grower-packer-shipper Joel Crist said his retail customers have found that when they merchandise SnapDragon for three months, the “sales gains are compounded week on week,” as repeat customers keep returning, as new customers keep appearing.

Crist is a family owner of the long-established Hudson Valley orchard, Crist Bros. Orchards Inc., based in Walden, NY.

Crist also sits on the board of directors of Crunch Time Apple Growers. Crunch Time, based in Lockport, NY, is a marketing agency for growers of two specialty apple varieties, SnapDragon and Ruby Frost.

Jessica Wells, business manager of the grower-owned cooperative, said Crunch Time represents 150 growers, that produce one-quarter of New York’s total apple production.

Created in 2011, Crunch Time has seven sales agents, based in New York and Pennsylvania.

“Our varieties have done very well,” Wells said. “These are outstanding apples. What sets them apart is that they taste great, feel great and sell well. They bring repeat sales and have performed really well versus other premium varieties.”

Wells said that SnapDragon and Ruby Frost both keep very well under controlled atmosphere conditions. Honeycrisp is a parent of the SnapDragon, but Wells said SnapDragon is “always crisp coming out of a long storage period and its taste doesn’t fade.”

Likewise, she said Crunch Time was still marketing the last of the 2019 Ruby Frost crop in August 2020. The variety was kept on hand for customers requesting to have it available for as long as possible.

Joel Crist said his firm started rolling its packing lines within hours after the first SnapDragon harvest because customers demanded it as soon as it is on the market. “Our customers have discovered the wonders of SnapDragon,” he said.

Crist said his Hudson Valley family farm in Walden, NY, is the southernmost of New York orchards producing SnapDragon. Thus, it was the earliest production, which this year saw a Sept. 22 initial harvest.

“Our customers have extended programs on the shelf and they have a loyal following,” he said. “Consumers buy and eat SnapDragon and they want more. The variety has to be on the shelf the second time.”

The 2020 SnapDragon crop was not impacted by springtime cold damage as were some other New York apple varieties.

As to cool weather in the fall of 2020, Crist said “we’ve had a couple light frosts already. That’s as good as it gets for enhancing color. We get nervous when it gets below 30, but going into the last week of September, that hadn’t been the case.”

Ruby Frost is a good baking apple and suits consumers who prefer a variety that is not so sweet.

“The Ruby Frost is crispy without being super-sweet,” he said.

 

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