Fowler Farms says winter is time to double down on apples

From The Produce News | 23 January 2024

Overview of apples from New York in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on January 22, 2024.

The team at Fowler Farms is committed to keeping the pressure up when it comes to winter apple sales. They hope that their retail partners follow the same strategy.

While some retailers may tend to de-emphasize the apple category in the winter months in favor of other produce, especially citrus items, officials at Wolcott, NY-based Fowler Farms actually think the winter months are the right time for merchants to double down on the apple category. The result, they say, will be a surprising uptick in produce sales during the more-difficult winter months as well as making a statement that their stores can be a full-service destination for all fruits — regardless of the time of year or the temperature outside.

apple volumes by history 1

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

“Winter is not the time of the year for any retailer to take their foot off the gas on the apple business,” said Mike Hacker, vice president of sales and marketing for Fowler Farms. “We truly believe that they need to get much more proactive with the apple category during the winter and showcase their apple assortment and all the varieties of apples that are available year-round. The result will be an increase in consumption during the winter and a message to consumers that they can get a broad variety of apples at their stores during the warm and cold months.”

Like many other growers, officials at Fowler Farms — a sixth-generation family-owned farm — rely on the latest technology to ensure that the best apples reach retail shelves throughout the year. To do so, Hacker said the company invested in the Greefa GeoSort Ultimate Cleaner to ensure that food safety standards are maintained throughout the year.

“Also, the Dynamic CA technology we utilize allows us to keep fruit stored for a much longer time that through regular cold storage,” he said. “In some cases, and with some varieties, we can keep fruit fresh for longer than a year. It also helps to maintain the fruit’s flavor, freshness and crunch. At the end of the day, all of those factors will make consumers happy with their purchase and increase consumption even more.”

In addition, Hacker pointed out that Fowler is a pack-to-order operation, meaning that products are not pulled out of the CA room until an order has been submitted. That also means the retailer will have the order at their stores and on their shelves quickly, often within 24 hours of when it was pulled from storage. “All of this means less shrinkage for the retailer and a better experience for the consumer,” he noted.

So why work with Fowler Farms? Hacker, who joined the company in 2019 after starting a career in retail, said that the company’s well-earned reputation for quality and the fact that it offers 23 different varieties of apples is a big part of the reason.

“We know how to keep things moving and the size of our operation and the varieties we offer definitely set us apart from most of our competitors,” he said. “We offer a lot of varieties, like Cortland, Ginger Golds, SnapDragon and, especially, SweetTango, that hold on extremely well through the winter. That makes a big difference for us and for our customers and their shoppers.”

In the end, he said it will take a village to maximize the potential of winter apples, or apples, for that matter. “We realize that we have to do our part and generate enthusiasm for the category, particularly during the winter months,” Hacker said. “We offer point-of-sale material to our customers to help them, and we maintain open communications with everyone to stay ahead of trends.

“At the same time, we ask our retailers to keep pushing apples throughout the year, especially in the winter months when store foot traffic is down a bit,” Hacker continued. “They need to keep the product upfront and execute their merchandising strategies to keep their displays full of fresh products.”

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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