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Hess Bros. doubles apple packing capacity

With a strong network of family growers, coupled with increased packing capacity, it is no wonder that a growing number of retailers are looking to Hess Bros. Fruit Co. to be their apple supplier.

“Hess Bros. Fruit Co. is excited for a great 2019 season,” Chris Sandwick, director of marketing at Lancaster, PA-based Hess Bros. Fruit Co. told The Produce News. “We have upgraded our packing capacity and can now handle nearly twice as much fruit as before. This was a welcome and necessary addition to support the growth experienced by our retail partners and our grower partners. We recognize the need to maintain on-time delivery while also ensuring that we are putting the right fruit in the right box on the right day.”

The added capacity is important because in recent years the growers that Hess Brothers works with have greatly added to the number of varieties that they grow.

HessOrchard201864of130 “The new varieties have brought many changes including storage regimes,” said Mattie Leid, sales representative. “The Honeycrisp apple is the most peculiar and requires special attention, mostly because it is sensitive to quick chilling. Most apples are cooled to 32 degrees, but Honeycrisp are only cooled to 38 degrees,” she said.

In addition to Honeycrisp, other newer varieties supplied by Hess Bros. Fruit Co. include Evercrisp, SnapDragon and RubyFrost.

Leid noted that the 2019 apple crop “looks great and is on par to match last year’s numbers. The big difference being an increase in Gala, Honeycrisp and the new varieties.”

She added that heatwave that baked the Northeast in 100-degree-plus temperatures for several days in late July is not expected to hurt the yield. “Heat has not had a major impact on the fruit because the moisture has been good,” Leid said.

Sandwick noted that a source of pride for Hess Bros. is the variety of apples it offers its customers.

“Hess Bros. Fruit Co. works with some of the best growers in the country. It’s not about just having fruit — but having the right fruit. Hess Bros. recognizes the evolution occurring in the apple category and is prepared to assist our customers as they transition from traditional to modern varieties,” Sandwick said.

While the category is changing, it is not happening at the same pace for every retailer,” Sandwick said. “Hess Bros. has a supply of traditional varieties to supply those customers where this change is happening more slowly, and also has a stable of new, high-culinary varieties for those retailers ready to move on more quickly. In partnership with our growers, Hess Bros. has promotable quantities of Evercrisp, SnapDragon and RubyFrost available for this season and beyond.

“We are also focused on supporting the new ‘backbone’ of the industry with day-to-day supplies of Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp,” Sandwick continued.

Since its founding in the 1960s, Hess Bros. Fruit Co. has grown to be a major factor in the apple business. “We represent fruit from over 70 growers in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and Virginia,” Sandwick said. “Our grower partners are multi-generational farms, and family owned, with 80 percent of all our apples coming from our largest 12 growers.”

The Hess Bros. apple season runs from early August through July, offering retailers virtually a continuous supply. “Depending on Mother Nature, we can typically offer a year-round supply of some apples, while maintaining a strong 10 months’ program for the rest,” Leid said.