This winter the message is clear — apples are not just for fall
“SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples are both available all winter long,” Well said. “RubyFrost has traditionally been our winter apple, with widespread availability starting in January. The perfectly balanced flavors of RubyFrost develop very well in post-harvest storage, making its introduction in January ideal.”
In fact, nearly 95 percent of the RubyFrost crop is sold after Jan. 1 and about 70 percent of the SnapDragon crop is sold in the new year.
“RubyFrost started exclusively as a winter apple, with sales beginning in January but in the last couple of years, it has evolved a bit with more stores stocking them a bit earlier, maybe a month after harvest in early-November or around Thanksgiving,” Wells said. “This shift requires those growers whose apples are being sold earlier to harvest with more precision; letting the apples hang on the trees a bit longer so that they develop the same taste on the tree that would normally develop in storage.”
The vast majority of RubyFrost are still sold after the first of the year and throughout the winter, but they are a perfect fit for holiday meals, desserts, charcuterie boards and more, so getting them to retailers earlier makes a lot of sense.
“Success in the apple category is ultimately driven by having an outstanding product — flavor, texture, storability — but even with all of those things, success will be elusive if customers don’t have the opportunity to buy them,” Wells said. “We’re seeing a lot more retailers stocking both SnapDragon and RubyFrost all season long. This contributes to success at all levels, customers are happy to have their favorite apple available every time they shop, retailers are happy product is selling through consistently without changing things up every month and growers/packers/shippers are happy that the crop is selling out.”
Overall, 2021 was a good year for Crunch Time Apple Growers as the cooperative saw increased sales to go along with its larger-than-ever crop.
“The 2021 crop was our largest ever for both SnapDragon and RubyFrost and we expect to have both varieties available a bit longer than last year, when both varieties were basically sold out by May 1,” Wells said. “Retailers can likely expect availability into June this year.”
Still, the biggest opportunities for growth are within.
“Stores belonging to our existing retail partners that have a national presence; and regional retailers not located on the East Coast that do not currently stock either variety,” Wells said. “SnapDragon and RubyFrost are widely available in the East, but as you head west they become less available. We’d love for customers in Colorado, California or Kansas be able to find them as easily as customers in New York, Florida or South Carolina.”
The biggest challenge for Crunch Time is getting growers the best return for all of their fruit.
“We are a group of family farmers that came together to grow and market two new varieties developed by Cornell — we don’t have the big budgets of some of the other high-flavor premium varieties out there, but we grow outstanding fruit and will provide retailers with outstanding support,” Wells said.
This season Crunch Time is introducing new branding for RubyFrost, focusing more on the apple’s attributes as opposed to the name.
“RubyFrost has the perfect balance of sweet and tart and is very appealing to the eye with its deep ruby red color, leading to the new tagline, ‘Pretty. Delicious,’” Wells said.