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Rice Fruit Co. busy with a wide range of retail, import, facility improvements

Leading Pennsylvania apple producer and shipper, Rice Fruit Co., headquartered in Gardners, PA, is currently in the final quarter of marketing its 2017 crop.

In mid-May, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Brenda Briggs, said market demand in recent weeks had been stronger than expected.

“Additionally, we are working with our retail partners on programs and promotions for the upcoming season,” said Briggs. “And we are working with industry partners to provide quality control, storage and packing for import programs. Everything combined, we are in the midst of a great deal of activity and energy moving these initiatives forward.”

Brenda-Briggs-VP-Sales-and-Marketing--Ben-Rice-President-1Brenda Briggs, vice president of sales and marketing, and Ben Rice, president of Rice Fruit Co.Rice Fruit Co. has a long and strong history. In 1790 Daniel Rice, the first Rice family member to settle in Adams County after emigrating from Germany, recognized that the scenic foothills of South Mountain, the eastern-most ridge of the Appalachians, had ideal soil and a perfect climate for growing many kinds of fruit, and especially apples.

Rice Fruit Co. was founded in 1913 by Daniel Rice. For the next four generations the Rice family continued to plant orchards as the notoriety of Adams County-grown fruit began to spread. In 1955, Arthur Rice Jr., built the current packing facility in Gardners. He also formed a partnership with William Lott to form R&L Orchards, which grew most of the fruit packed by Rice Fruit. This partnership still continues. Today, Rice Fruit receives, stores, packages and markets fruit for over 40 farm families in the surrounding areas.

Briggs said that over the next few months the company has several important facility projects scheduled that will keep it operating with the newest advancement in packing technologies.

“These projects include upgrading our packing line vision system to Compac’s new Spectrim platform, which will enhance our defect and blemish grading capabilities,” she explained. “We will also be upgrading our internal quality sorting platform to Compac’s latest-generation Inspectra 2 model, which will allow us to leverage our advanced internal quality sorting capabilities.

She pointed out that these next-generation technologies are powerful tools that bring efficiency and precision to Rice Fruit’s packing operation.

“As we kick off the new apple marketing season in August, we will have additional packing power with additional bag and pouch packing machinery,” added Briggs.

Rice Fruit Co. will also be installing a solar system on its north storage building with the assistance of a grant from the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Financing Authority and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development. This initiative will reduce its use of purchased electricity and further its commitment to social responsibility and sustainable practices.

“We are completing several improvements to the wet end of our main packing line,” noted Briggs. “By incorporating the latest hygienic design principles, we are further building upon our very comprehensive food-safety initiatives.”

The company is always on top of its food-safety and traceability initiatives. Briggs said the company continues to maintain a diligent environmental monitoring program to ensure the highest quality, safest fruit.

“In recent weeks improvements have been made to our packing line equipment to further perfect the quality of our grading and wax finish,” she said.

Rice Fruit is strongly engaged with the locally grown movement, and it works closely with its retail partners to promote and highlight the premium fruit grown in Pennsylvania.

“We are working on collaborative initiatives to continue building relationships with our local consumers who seek to support their community, know where the food is grown and enjoy the quality of food grown in their region of the world,” said Briggs.

Rice Fruit does a strong business with D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York, whose headquarters in on the Hunts Point Produce Market.

“Hunts Point Market is amazing in its diversity and sheer volume of product that moves through it to retailers, food service, small grocers and restaurants,” Briggs pointed out.

“After nearly three decades in this market, we have developed a strong following for our apples and peaches through our partnership with D’Arrigo Bros.”