SweeTango® Growers Keep the Market Pipeline Open
SWEDESBORO, NJ - Collaboration is essential in the fresh produce industry, and as we have all fallen on such challenging times, this value has never been more important to uphold. In the spirit of collaboration, multiple growers of the SweeTango® apple variety are bringing life to the mantra “do well by doing good,” supporting food banks and feeding programs in communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
These awe-inspiring growers are also taking steps to protect their employees by implementing social distancing and other safety measures. SweeTango’s North American growers cooperative is moving to keep the supply chain flowing for this top-10 branded apple variety.
“In times of crisis, food offers more than nourishment, it gives comfort. It is our honor to give some small comfort to neighbors who are hurting,” said Jennifer Parkhill, Executive Director of Next Big Thing, A Growers’ Cooperative.
To help keep grocery displays stocked with SweeTangos, Next Big Thing’s Eastern Region continues to ship high-quality domestic SweeTangos while the co-op’s other regions have begun to import fruit from trusted partners in the Southern Hemisphere.
According to a press release, SweeTango growers from Nova Scotia, New York state, Washington state, and Michigan, have so far donated more than 100,000 apples to food banks.
Fowler Farms in Wolcott, New York, donated more than 100,000 SweeTangos to Foodlink, which supplies food to pantries across the state.
“What better way to give back than by giving one of the healthiest foods available?” Fowler Farms’ Austin Fowler, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, added.
Applewood Fresh Growers in Sparta, Michigan, has donated apples to help feed children who don’t have access to school meals due to the crisis, and to Feeding America to distribute to food-insecure Michiganders.
“Apples are an original comfort food, and SweeTango is an incredible apple,” agreed Applewood Fresh Growers’ Owner Scott Swindeman.
Stemilt has partnered with Rotary First Harvest to provide fruit that is distributed regionally through Northwest Harvest Food Banks. Scotian Gold in Coldbrook, Nova Scotia, Canada, has donated apples to groups including Feed Nova Scotia and Open Arms, which supply fresh foods to those in isolation with health risks and to families now facing food insecurity.
“There’s just something about taking a slurpy bite of a crunchy, juicy apple that is sustaining,” said Stemilt’s Roger Pepperl, Marketing Director.
Like other essential businesses in the produce industry, the SweeTango community is also managing the impacts of COVID-19 on their places of work, from figuring out how to practice safe social distancing or to telework, all while adapting to market changes.
“We do not underestimate the important role we have during this crisis. With schools and restaurants closed, families are relying heavily on their local grocery stores for quality fresh food,” said Dennis MacPherson, Director of Sales at Scotian Gold. “We’ve extended our work hours to meet demand and are collaborating with our retail customers to help keep their stores stocked. We will do whatever it takes.”
This is the first season that SweeTango apples have been available on the North American market after the New Year; the co-op reports growers harvested a record crop last fall, especially in the East, which has maintained its eating quality in storage. Austin Fowler remarked on this record crop, noting that "it just kept coming."
Meanwhile, Next Big Thing is tapping into additional supplies available from SweeTango growers in the Southern Hemisphere.
New York state SweeTango grower Jay Toohill of Corporate Sales at Chazy Orchards noted that fruit quality, flavor, and color are outstanding: “The way the fruit is holding up is exceptional, like no other year.”
That serendipity is now presenting opportunity for retailers who are racing to meet burgeoning demand from consumers who are eating three meals plus snacks at home.
“The quality of the fruit shipping after the New Year is showing us that this apple will store very well,” agreed Scott Swindeman. “The condition and flavor coming out of our controlled atmosphere rooms has been fantastic.”
The co-op’s Eastern sales desks continue to market domestic supplies of SweeTango remaining in storage in that region; Applewood Fresh Growers has also been marketing Eastern SweeTango supplies to retailers based in the central region.
“SweeTango’s flavor and crunch make it one of the best apples in the world,” said Pepperl. “Our biggest problem this season was that we could have had more volume.”
Meanwhile, Pepperl reports that supplies of SweeTango apples from Chile are now available in the West from Stemilt; while MacPherson reports Scotian Gold plans to import SweeTangos from New Zealand’s Yummy Fruit.
“SweeTango’s quality has continued to excel among all apples; this is a top-five trademark apple when it’s in the market,” added Pepperl. “When you talk to growers, it’s a rare occurrence that they don’t say SweeTango is one of the best apples in the United States. Even our competitors tell us this is a great apple. That has to influence retailers’ choices. The market is blessed with many varieties, so make great choices.”
Here’s to continuous collaboration amongst the fresh produce industry! Keep checking in with us at ANUK for more of the latest news.