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Fowler Farms sees rising interest in cider

Family-owned for six generations, Fowler Farms remains a major player in the apple industry by offering more than 20 varieties of apples, currently being sold in over 270 stores.

“We’re just starting to ship Ruby Frost and also EverCrisp — two firm varieties that like to mature in storage, and the flavor comes around nicely after a couple of months in storage,” said Austin Fowler, co-owner of the Wolcott, NY-based company. “We’re really excited about both of those.”cider snapdragon

Many at the company saw great interest in both varieties when they exhibited at the New York Produce Show in December, with anticipation of the launch very strong.

“While we were there, people in the industry were talking about how it’s been a very unique year in the apple category, as far as Honeycrisp apples really moving the market with the added production from the West Coast and the volatility of pricing, which created an uneasy market,” Fowler said.

“There was also a lot of talk about establishing guidelines for the Honeycrisp,” he continued. “I think the industry should look to USDA to set better grading standards to identify what it’s really worth.”

In 2019, the company picked a record crop and Fowler was very happy with what he saw throughout the year.

“We have more of the more desirable varieties such as HoneyCrisp and SweeTango and RubyFrost and EveryCrisp, and less of the more traditional varieties, so we’re positioned well to what the consumer is taking a liking too,” Fowler said. “It’s no accident that we are able to act quickly to market conditions.”

One of the bright points of the winter season has been that generally at this point in the year, the company might experience some weakness in Empires and Galas, but because the fruit has been stored well, and the pressures great, the flavor has been really strong.

“Internally here, we are going to do more of the same in 2020, growing the varieties that the consumers want to buy,” Fowler said.

“We’re not out trying to push things into the market that don’t belong,” he added. “We understand the future is all about flavor and the consumer has a lot of choices in the produce department that are increasingly more flavorful, and we need to protect the apple category by coming up, harvesting and storing those varieties that do the best and have the best flavors.”

Fowler Farms is also seeing an increase in its apple cider.

The company offers a premium blend, which is a seven-variety cider, as well as a 100-percent HoneyCrisp cider, 100-percent SweeTango and 100-percent SnapDragon cider.

“The SnapDragon has really taken off. It’s really sweet so kids love it,” Fowler said. “We expect that to continue growing.”

From a personnel standpoint, Fowler Farms recently said goodbye to Lee Peters, who retired at the end of 2019 after 35 years at the company.

“He has a broad reach in the industry, and was our former vice president of sales and marketing for the better part of three decades, and he’s happy to be spending time in a warmer climate down in Florida, but we’re all going to miss him here,” Fowler said. “We thank him for his many years of hard work.”