Fowler Farms is promoting the Big Apple
If you are in the Big Apple, you should be eating Big Apple apples.
That is the philosophy of officials at Fowler Farms, the Wolcott, N.Y.-based grower, as it gets ready for the New York Produce Show in the midst of celebrating its 165th year in business.
“The bottom line is that we are the largest pack shipper of apples in New York state,” said Mike Hacker, vice president of sales and marketing. “The biggest thing for us at this show is to increase the consumption of New York-grown apples. It is the Big Apple, we think that it makes a lot of sense for retailers to be supporting our own local farmers at a show like this. Plus, it is as important to explain to the industry how doing business with New York farmers can lower the carbon footprint and the fact that we simply have a better-tasting apple due to our climate.
“We have more than 23 varieties of apples and we will be encouraging everyone at the show to taste our apples and cider. The flavor is excellent because of the climate and the fact that we grow our apples in some of the best glacier soil in the state. Better-tasting apples increase consumption.”
Hacker emphasized Fowler Farms’ long history and its reputation in the industry that has resulted in many excellent and deep relationships over the years.
Fowler operates about 2,500 acres of fertile land near Lake Ontario in upstate New York and has about 150 full-time workers and hires about 600 seasonal employees in the fall.
“We have been doing things right for 165 years now and that is a long time,” he said. “We are focused on growing and delivering quality products and creating a sustainable business.
“For example, one thing we do is grow our own locust trees and utilize portable sawmills that allow us to make our own posts for our orchards. Most of our competitors use pressure chemically-treated posts. Our trees are naturally insect proof, with no chemicals.”
Hacker added that all orders at Fowler are packed to order. “We do not pack until we have an actual order for it,” he said. “That means we deliver fresher products, with less shrinkage, and that creates a better-eating experience for the consumer, which will lead to even more sales of apples.”
Utilizing Fowler Farms’ broad selection of apples and ciders can help retailers build sales in the category, even as foot-traffic at stores decline. “I come from the retail world and I always paid very close attention to how to convert consumers to specific products and increase the average ticket,” said Hacker, who joined the company about five years ago. “One promotional area where we have had great success is selling single varietal ciders with apples and helping retailers to double the sale. It is very simple. Merchandise cider with apples and many consumers will purchase both.”
More than 20 years ago, the company started to grow and sell what was then the little-known HoneyCrisp variety, taking a big chance on a new flavor. The gamble paid off and HoneyCrisp is now one of the most popular varieties of applies in the industry and the backbone of the company’s apple business, along with other new varieties like Sweet Tango and SnapDragon.
“We recently acquired even more acreage and are looking to expand our assortment of apples,” Hacker said. “We are always looking at new varieties based on flavor, but we realize that anything new must exceed what is on the shelf today for us to be interested in growing it and adding it to our assortment.”