Rainier Fruit partners with nature, delivers on quality
With so many apples to choose from, shippers continue to push apples with winning characteristics, as well as adopt brand-oriented cultural practices that will drive sales at retail.
“Honeycrisp has stood the test of time and it paved the way for new branded varieties, but we at Rainier have always prided ourselves on being innovators and staying on the cutting edge,” said Blaine Markley, director of domestic sales at Rainier Fruit Company. That rings true with some of Rainier’s branded varieties such as Lady Alice, a great tasting apple meeting consumer demands both conventionally and organically.
Unlike many other varieties, the company’s Lady Alice apple wasn’t produced in an apple-breeding program. Instead, Mother Nature and one of her best workers, a bee that cross-pollinated an apple tree, yielded this fantastic new apple. The new apple was discovered in one of Rainier’s orchards in 1978 by a farm manager who noticed the unique seedling springing from the trunk of a damaged tree. The Zirkle family preserved and propagated the seedling, which is now named for the matriarch who was instrumental in planting the family roots where they would thrive.
“Just like anything else in the retail world, innovating is key, and apples are not any different,” said Markley. “By offering these new varieties, it brings value to the retailers who are able to capture consumer excitement and repeat purchases on a better eating experience.”
Going into the new year consumers are reaching for organic varieties at a faster pace. Rainier is committed to continuing to ship out what the consumer requires. “We all know an apple a day keeps the doctor away; right now, that is more important than ever,” said Markley. The company has long made organic farming an important part of its mission, frequently positioning itself and its fruit as wholesome to the core. Their goal of zero-waste cull, high-density plantings, and other non-chemical interventions are all part of this mission.
Rainier has partnered with the Xerces Society to deploy habitat for beneficials, including both pollinators and predator insects in tailor made plantings on the borders and interior spaces of its fruit ranches. It’s a significant investment from a time and money perspective, but the company takes the mission seriously.
The company’s process of bringing fruit to market touches many hands throughout the organization and its precise attention to detail in all areas separate Rainier from the competition.
“We are a family-owned business, because of that we can think on our feet and keep things simple,” said Blake Belknap, vice president of sales at Rainier Fruit. “We have a menu consumers want more of, and quality to take us 365 days a year.”