Crunch Time Apple Growers hype SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples
Crunch Time Apple Growers is a cooperative of 147 growers throughout the state of New York who are dedicated to introducing new, flavorful apple varieties to the marketplace.
SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples were born in New York, nurtured and developed by Dr. Susan Brown at Cornell University.
“Crunch Time Apple Growers has a pretty singular purpose — to grow and market SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples,” said Jessica Wells, business manager for the Lockport, NY-based company. “In that, we make it our mission to deliver the best apples to our customers while also making sure our grower-owners are getting the best returns on the fruit they grow.”
Looking back on last year, Wells describes the 2020 crop as “an interesting one.”
“Overall, it was a good selling season and we sold out ahead of schedule,” she said. “Sales were strong for both SnapDragon and RubyFrost, with sales of SnapDragon up from 25-85 percent in many regions and markets. More stores carried both varieties for a longer period of time, which is a huge benefit to customers who love the apples and want to be repeat buyers.”
In general, fruit size was smaller than normal due to summer drought conditions; however, the pandemic brought a higher-than-normal demand for bagged fruit so smaller fruit did not pose the same problem that it may have in a typical year.
“This season’s crop looks good so far, though it is pretty early to make incredibly accurate predictions,” Wells said. “Being early June, many of our growers are in the process of thinning, or have just finished, so the results of that are not clear.
There is excitement about new marketing programs that will roll-out for the 2021 crop and Wells hints that there will be a bit of a brand refresh for RubyFrost.
“RubyFrost made some great gains at specific retailers this year and they are the perfect balance of sweet and tart — deep and rich with a hearty crunch and crisp texture,” Wells said. “They also offer a beautiful, deep red color, making them the perfect ‘counter candy’ as we like to call it, to add a burst of color to any kitchen.”
Still, being a very tart apple, she knows that taste isn’t for everyone.
“RubyFrost is naturally non-browning due to high vitamin C and has a tart flavor profile appealing to about 30 percent of consumers,” Wells said. “With RubyFrost, we are focused on marketing to that audience as well as to those who are looking for an apple to use in recipes.”
Meanwhile, SnapDragon is the star of the show, with continued steady growth. It is an apple that appeals to the masses with its “monster crunch,” juiciness, and sweet flavor profile, with just a touch of snap.
“It is great as a sweet and healthy snack by itself or can be paired with any number of things like peanut butter, cheese or caramel,” Wells said.
Right now, there is quite a bit of acreage reaching full maturity and, in turn, full production.
“Our challenge is to make sure our distribution channels have the capacity to sell, pack and market the entire crop as it continues to grow,” Wells said. “We will be evaluating new marketers that complement our current footprint in order to ensure we have the strongest sales and distribution channels possible.”
Aldi, Wegmans, Publix, Costco and BJs have all been strong partners to Crunch Time Apple Growers since the beginning.
“Listening to our retailers in terms of packaging and promotion and having a team of shippers that is willing to work together for the good of a retailer is tremendously helpful in maintaining these relationships,” Wells said.