FirstFruits Farms Stands Out in Apple Category
PRESCOTT, WA - As a consumer and even a trade news writer, seeing the plethora of apple varieties to choose from is a great experience but can also be a little overwhelming for many. The booming category sees a lot of popularity, so I wanted to get into the mind of FirstFruits Farms to see how the company is standing out. I tapped Chuck Zeutenhorst, General Manager, and Joe Vargas, Marketing, to hear firsthand what the grower of the exclusive Opal® apple variety has in store.
“With so many new proprietary varieties out there, I think we’ve created some confusion at retail for consumers, and it’s sometimes made it difficult for shoppers to choose what is the best,” Chuck says. “Whether it be on the promotional side or the packaging side, we definitely like to have our foot in the door at all levels. We’re involved in all aspects of what the retailer needs, so there’s a terrific amount of partnership that goes into the relationship at the high level.”
Joe tags in to further emphasize how FirstFruit Farms is a retailer’s best marketing partner.
“We have a lot of versatility in what we do. We’re in there with the retailer trying to help them with promotional, calendars, point-of-sales merchandise, information, and best practices,” Joe explains. “FirstFruits is trying to reach out to consumers in creative ways in order to keep the Opal as a household name.”
When I asked how FirstFruits can accomplish its mission, Joe mentions one way will be changing the packaging. The company has a couple of automated options running for more sustainable packaging and that should be put into the market by next season.
Joe further comments that decisions like these are made possible because of the company’s foundation.
“From the top down we’re owned and operated by one company. Starting from the farm all the way to the sales office, we have one voice, which makes the communication flow smoother. I think that’s where the apple industry is heading,” Joe continues. “We’re able to navigate a tight and competitive market by being a data-driven company. The ability to share information in a quick time frame with a quick turnaround allows us to make decisions promptly and effectively.”
Before I get carried away with the company’s plans, I have to ask how Opal was doing this season.
“We’re seeing great quality in our varieties this season, especially in our Opal variety,” Chuck tells me. “The market overall could be stronger, but our volumes are good, and we’re moving along at a steady rate.”
As I look forward to trying Opal this season, FirstFruits has an anniversary to celebrate. This year marks the 10 year anniversary of its Take a Bite Out of Hunger™ program. To date, the program has led to the donation of approximately 2 million lbs of fresh apples to local food banks in the past ten years. The 2019 participating retailers included AG New England, Baron’s Market, Bashas, Charlie’s Produce, Dave’s Marketplace, Frazier Farms, HEB, OK Produce, Raley’s, Roundy’s, Sobeys, Stater Bros, and United Supermarkets, to help donate over 269,250 pounds of apples to their local food banks.
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