Neal Carter with Okanagan Specialty Fruits Talks Expanding Acreage and New Varieties
EASTERN WASHINGTON - I’m all about spreading the love, and not many things are more worthy of love than efforts being made to reduce food waste. Okanagan Specialty Fruit is stepping up to the plate with its Arctic® apples that are non-browning. The genetically modified apples have created a big splash in the industry because they benefit the entire supply chain, resulting in food waste reduction. After years of strategic planning and planting, the company is embarking on major growth in its orchards to keep up with demand.
First thing's first, though: PMA Fresh Summit is about to commence, and the company is unveiling its fresh packaging to pair with its numerous new offerings.
“Those attending PMA this year will be among the very first to see the brand new packaging for all our products with a fresh look and feel. And speaking of products, we have tripled the ways to enjoy our delicious Arctic apples this year,” President of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Neal Carter explains. “In addition to our fresh slices in convenient grab-and-go bags, we’ve also added whole apples and our sweet and crunchy Arctic ApBitz™ dried apples, our newest healthy snacking option. Plus, we’re introducing our newest non-browning apple variety: Arctic Grannies!”
Demonstrations; point-of-sale education materials, such as recipe cards; and other opportunities to inform consumers have proven fruitful, so to speak, when providing insight about Arctic apples’ non-browning characteristic. These avenues of education have been instrumental in providing inspiration on how to use Arctic apples in various ways, consequently leading to dramatic boosts in interest, Neal tells me. With such a great spike in consumer interest, the company has had to rev up volume efforts in substantial ways.
“We have approximately 600 acres of Arctic apple trees in the ground now, and we anticipate that number will increase to over 2,000 acres by the end of 2020,” Neal shares with me. “We’ve had many apple-lovers eagerly waiting for years to try our unique non-browning apples. One of our biggest challenges right now is keeping up with demand while our apple trees grow and mature, so this planting program will help with that.”
With the expansion of its orchards, the company looks forward to a stronger presence in the nation’s fresh market this year and plans to begin pursuing the Canadian market after the fall 2019 harvest.
“Moving forward, we will continue our growth with new non-browning Arctic apple varieties and value-added products. We have done some preliminary work with other crops, and while these projects are promising, they will be several years away,” Neal continues. “Our primary focus for now will remain on developing new non-browning apple varieties, and we’re excited to have just put Arctic Fujis in the ground. We have an extremely talented science team that is always looking for innovative solutions to make the perfect fruit even better!”
These efforts all boil down to the goal of reducing food waste and creating a better and more sustainable industry.
“Our goal is to ensure that less apples get wasted, and more apples get tasted,” Neal concludes.
That’s one tasty high note and music to my ears.