New York state is gearing up for the harvest of its SnapDragon and RubyFrost apple varieties. Harvest of the highly anticipated SnapDragon apple typically is in full swing by the third week of September with the fruit hitting stores around October 1, maybe a week earlier. RubyFrost harvest follows mid-October, and the fruit tends to be available for retailers by mid-November. “Harvest may be a few days ahead of schedule this year, but in general we’re on track,” says Jessica Wells with marketing organization Crunch Time Apple Growers.
The state saw plentiful rainfall this summer and as a result, the expectations are for a full crop with excellent size. “If the current weather patterns continue, the prospects seem good for excellent color and flavor as well,” Wells added. Recent heat is helping build sugar and as fall comes around, growers are hoping for some cool nights to help color the apples perfectly.
Due to the success and rising demand of the two varieties, acreage has gradually expanded in the short time SnapDragon and RubyFrost have been around. “This year, we anticipate the SnapDragon crop to be up 10 to 20 percent while the RubyFrost crop will be about the same as last year,” Wells commented. Altogether, there are 157 growers who grow 600 acres of SnapDragon and about 350 acres of RubyFrost apples. About 50 of the 600 SnapDragon acres are coming into production this year while RubyFrost acreage remains similar to last season.
The apples are grown almost exclusively in New York State. “Last year we began to allow direct market growers outside of New York to plant and market the two varieties. There was a lot of interest and we had 20 growers in 12 states sign on as a part of this program,” Wells said. However, at this time all of the commercially sold fruit is grown in New York. Nine sales agents are responsible for packing and shipping all of the commercial fruit, and these include Apple Acres, Fowler Brothers, Hess Brothers Fruit Company, Hudson River Fruit Distributors, New York Apple Sales (Yes! Apples), Niagara Fresh Fruit, Rice Fruit Company, Riveridge Produce Marketing and United Apple Sales. Rice Fruit Company and Riveridge Produce Marketing were added to the line-up of packers/shippers this season and Crunch Time is in talks with a couple other shippers as well.
Unique combination of climate and soil
Expansion of acreage, signing on new growers, and adding to the line-up of packers are all signs of the varieties’ success. How are they able to compete with the large selection of other apple varieties on the shelf? The climate and soil in New York paired with the hot summer days and cool nights are important differentiators for the apples. “With its monster crunch, incredible juiciness and sweet, snappy flavor, SnapDragon is hands down among the best premium apples in the marketplace,” said Wells. “It is an amazing apple that appeals to a broad range of customers who purchase it once and go back to the store for more. RubyFrost is a phenomenal apple in terms of beauty, texture and flavor. However, because it is not as sweet, it appeals to a bit narrower audience, but that audience is passionate and loyal once they get their hands on a RubyFrost.”
Proximity to urban areas
Another differentiator is the proximity of orchards to major population centers. SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples were developed, nurtured, and bred by Dr. Susan Brown at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. “With all the commercially sold fruit grown in New York, the varieties have an advantage over West Coast premium apples as transportation to major population centers east of the Mississippi is more cost effective.” This often leads to a slightly lower price on the shelf while ensuring greater freshness and quality. This benefit is further strengthened due to consumers being increasingly sensitive to shopping and buying locally.
While predominantly sold east of the Mississippi, distribution of SnapDragon and RubyFrost will edge west to the center of the country a bit more this season. “We have some great retailers on board that have a national presence, as well as a couple retail partners in the southwest, specifically in Texas and Arizona.”
Fundraiser for communities
New this year, Crunch Time Apple Growers launched a fundraising program, providing access to consumers who may not otherwise be able to purchase the SnapDragon variety in local stores. The program offers school groups, churches, sports teams, and community organizations an opportunity to sell 9lb. boxes of SnapDragon within their communities. It is not limited to a location or SnapDragon retailer and the program is structured such that the groups should make a great profit, while offering a new and healthy alternative to other fundraisers. Click here if you are interested in this program.