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Rice Fruit Co. excited about the 2019 apple crop

Brenda Briggs, vice president of sales and marketing for Gardners, PA-based Rice Fruit Co., said excitement is in the air over the 2019 crop.

“We anticipate excellent quality and ideal sizing starting right out of the gate in August with our popular Premier Honeycrisp,” said Briggs.

“Our incoming volume will be similar to last year, but nature has been more kind to our growers this season,” she continued. “We expect to deliver more packed cases of all varieties of our premium Eastern apples.”

Robot-1151Rice Fruit Co.’s new robotic palletizing system improves worker safety and guarantees gentle handling.Rice Fruit Co. began harvesting its fresh crop Premier Honeycrisp apples in mid-August, and it anticipates finishing its harvest with the Pink Lady variety in early November.

The company handles a wide range of apples, including the classics, those that are trending and up-and-coming varieties.

Briggs stressed that the company always has exciting values for its retailers and their shoppers who are eager for local apples.

“In packaging, we’ve developed a new tote bag that puts the spotlight on our delicious apples, and a variety-specific box for the ever-popular Honeycrisp,” she explained. “This year we are also focused on building retailer awareness of the KIKU brand apple by promoting this super-sweet apple with our regional customers. The loyal following of fans of the KIKU just can’t get enough.”

Rice Fruit Co. markets the KIKU brand apple in partnership with Applewood Orchards in Michigan and CMI Orchards in Washington state.

The company continually upgrades its operation in its orchards as well as in its facilities.

“We have added a robotic palletizing system to improve worker safety and guarantee gentle handling of our fruit,” pointed out Briggs. “Other labor-related improvements include a redesign of the break area for our line employees, more natural light in the work areas and replacement of LED fixtures, which also conserve energy.”

After taking a breath from the solar array project completed last year, Briggs said next on the conservation horizon at Rice Fruit Co. are innovative water treatment and technology solutions.

“These will enable us to continuously recirculate, treat and reuse our water, thereby drawing less fresh water and further reducing our carbon footprint,” she said. “With the technologies we are currently pursuing, we expect to see a 40 percent reduction in our water consumption.”

Consumers, she added, have been very excited about the company’s CrimsonCrisp apple.

“It’s sweet-tart flavor, snappy crunch and eye-catching good looks have earned a following in our local market,” she said. “Retailers like it because it has both beauty and resilience.

“We also look forward to our second year building the OceanCrisp brand of Honeycrisp grown in Nova Scotia, Canada,” she added. “As the exclusive marketer in the United States, this partnership extends our Honeycrisp season into the spring.”

The unique soil and climate in the Adams County region, where Gardners is located, has produced some of the best tasting apples in the country for hundreds of years. Its long history began in 1790 when the first Rice Family member, Daniel Rice, immigrated from Germany and settled in Adams County. He 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.

In its current structure, Rice Fruit Co. was founded in 1913 by Arthur Rice Sr. For the next four generations the Rice family continued to plant orchards.

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 continues today. Rice Fruit receives, stores, packages and markets fruit for over 40 farm families in the surrounding areas.

Rice Fruit Co.’s apples are packed in the Rice — Premium Eastern Apples brand, in addition to the KIKU brand apples. It is recognized as a premium apple supplier along the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

The company continues to expand and evolve as its well into its next century of expertise.

“Our growers add high-density plantings of popular varieties every year while removing older orchards,” noted Briggs. “However, we are always actively seeking new growing partners to increase the volume of fruit we handle.”