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Hess Fruit’s ‘Greefa’ packingline proving to be a great asset

In August 2010, Hess Fruit Co. in Leola, PA, installed a new “Greefa” packingline. Fred Hess, president and co-owner with his brother Jerry Hess, told The Produce News that the equipment has been a great asset to the company.

“It’s working out extremely well for us,” said Mr. Hess. “We are using the internal sorting option more than we thought we would. It has the latest software for defect sorting and internal sorting. It was a major investment for our company, but it is enabling us to increase our daily production.”

The new packingline also enables the company to produce a more consistent package, and it provides more packaging options by fruit size and variety.

The sizer comes with some standard sections, but the width, length, drop and other details were custom designed to fit the company’s specific needs. Mr. Hess said that the software packages are pretty standard throughout the apple industry.

Hess Fruit Co. is doing fairly well with this year’s crop, and better than it did with the 2010 crop.

“We had less hail damage this year, and we expect some of our growers to come back with a little larger volume,” said Mr. Hess. “Overall, we’re expecting a little more than we had a year ago.

“We’re very normal on our start time this year,” he continued. “We started packing some Gala and Ginger Gold apples in early August, and we’ll be moving McIntosh and Honey Crips the first week of September.”

Gala is the company’s biggest apple and Red Delicious comes in second. However, the Red Delicious continues to be the most-produced apple in the United States. Mr. Hess said that the Gala and Honey Crisp are making strong headway. He noted that the McIntosh and Fuji are both growing in demand every year.

“The majority of Honey Crisps go to the fresh market, and demand is so high that it’s hard for even processors to get their hands on them,” said Mr. Hess. “Some people are making Honey Crisp apple juice today, and that is adding to the demand on the fresh market.”

On McDonald’s recent announcement that it would begin including apple slices in every Happy Meal served in the United States in September, Mr. Hess said that one need only to do the math to realize the impact that it will have on the industry.

“It will put added pressure on the apple market.” he said. “And that should help to stabilize and strength prices. This would be good news for the entire apple industry.”

Prices starting out this season were stronger than last year, and Mr. Hess said that the overall national apple crop will not be extremely large this year, which should help prices to stay strong.

“We continue to focus on our export market,” said Mr. Hess. “We have done some in the past, and would like to increase our exports this year, especially to Central America, India and Israel.”