Ken Lyons of Blue Mountain Fruit Co.’s Red Prince apple variety

“With our new sustainable packaging, we expect bagged apple sales to grow 50% this year”

The Red Prince apple variety was brought from the Netherlands to Canada by Irma and Marius Botden in the year 2000 and is grown exclusively by the Blue Mountain Fruit Company. This naturally occurring variety, which originated around the border between the Netherlands and Germany, has been steadily growing in popularity in the Canadian market since its introduction two decades ago. In the past 7 years, however, following a rebranding of the apple, the demand has grown exponentially. Now, the company has introduced a new, sustainable bag for the apple which has given sales an additional boost.


The Red Prince apple got a new sustainable bag this year.

Growing popularity in Canada
Ken Lyons started at the Blue Mountain Fruit Company in 2014 as their Director of Sales and Marketing. Leading the Blue Mountain team to a rebranding that propelled the Red Prince’s popularity to the top of the charts. “The rebranded look is the one that we still use today, and it reflects the story of the apple and the way that it is grown,” Lyons shares.
 
The Red Prince apple is harvested in the fall and then put into storage until the start of the new year. “It is a very unique variety because it has a great balance,” says Lyons. “It has a very crisp bite to it, with high brix and good acid levels. So, after harvest, we store them until January 1st to let the acid level come down to the mark that we want to reach – we test them to ensure that the acid to brix balance is just right. We market them as Canada’s winter apple that is like a fine wine – because just like with a good wine, the initial flavors that hit you are tangy but then give you a very smooth and sweet finish,” Lyons explains. 
 
Focus on sustainability
The orchard and the company focus on sustainability in their operations. Right from the start, in 2000, the company started out with high density orchards and Blue Mountain is one of the first companies to bring this growing style to Canada. Lyons says: “Sustainability is a huge part of Blue Mountain’s philosophy and values. We work with the latest technologies and data management programs in the orchards to make sure they are as sustainable as possible. We have commissioned a new packing plant, which is state of the art with the latest technologies to ensure that there is the least amount of waste of product and of utilities.”
 
In addition to all this, the company has also expanded their growing operations in a sustainable manner to keep up with the growing demand for the Red Prince. “We started in Ontario but then expanded to Quebec and the Maritime provinces. To uphold our commitment to sustainability, we decided we wouldn’t ship the product there. Instead, we entered into strategic partnerships with growers in Montreal and Nova Scotia to grow the apples. This way, we can expand our markets and reach while still offering locally grown, packed and shipped apples, all under the banner of Blue Mountain Fruit Company,” Lyons explains.
 
Last piece of sustainability puzzle: Packaging
The Red Prince apple is sold by retailers in bulk format as well as bagged format. To hold true to their values of sustainability, Blue Mountain has been working on releasing a sustainable bagged format for the variety. “We have been searching for the past seven years for a technology that would be both cost effective and sustainable,” Lyons shares.
 
The new bag incorporates two technologies that ensure that it will be as sustainable as possible. Lyons explains: “The first is the plastic, which has high clarity and durability and has the recycling number 2. This is important because of all the recyclable plastic out in the world, only a fraction is actually recycled. Number 2 recycling materials are one of the most easily recyclable and every recycling facility in Canada is equipped to work with this material. So, if consumers take care to put the bags into the recycling bin, they will be recycled. We are working with Vortex Packaging in Ontario for this material.”
 
He adds: “Additionally, we worked with an Ontario-based company called miDori-Bio, who market and distribute green additives. Through them, we were able to incorporate an additive into the bag that will ensure highly efficient biodegrading. So, if the bag does end up in a landfill, it will biodegrade between 5-15% within the first 30 days, and be fully degraded into O2, CO2 and recoverable methane, without leaving behind any micro-pieces, within 4.5-5 years.” In addition to all these environmental benefits, the packaging is also almost entirely cost-neutral.
 
The new bag is FDA and FTC approved, meaning that Blue Mountain can accurately claim that the bag is both biodegradable and recyclable. This year is the first year that the new bags are available, and so far, sales have been really strong. “We are expecting our bagged sales to increase by 50% this year. The Blue Mountain family is very excited about this new development. We wanted to lead the charge toward sustainability, but we are also very happy at the prospect of other businesses ultimately following our lead and incorporating these sustainable practices in every part of their business, as we have done,” Lyons concludes.
 
For more information:
Ken Lyons
Blue Mountain Fruit Company
Tel: +1 (905) 330-9113
Email: ken@bluemountainfruitcompany.com 
www.bluemountainfruitcompany.com 


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