CAPITAL PRESS – DAN WHEAT – WENATCHEE, Wash. — Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, of Wenatchee, is more than doubling its offerings of organic apples this season with the addition of Apple King to its program and more fruit from Gilbert Orchards, both of Yakima.
Oneonta Starr Ranch will increase from about 600,000, 40-pound boxes of organic apples last season to 1.5 million boxes this season, said Dan Davis, the company’s import and organic manager.
“It not only increases our volume but our flexibility because we now have two dedicated organic lines packing apples every day, Apple King’s and Gilbert’s,” Davis said. “We can do multiple varieties on the same day or increased volume of one on the same day to meet retail needs more quickly.”
Oneonta Starr Ranch’s organic apple manifest by order of volume is now Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady and Granny Smith, he said.
“We’ve only transitioned our best blocks to organic and so our volume consists of the best varietal makeup of the most current strains,” he said.
The 107-year-old Apple King is headquartered in Yakima with conventional packing in Gleed and organic packing in Union Gap. It has had an “excellent relationship” marketing its organics with the Chilean company, Viva Tierra, but with production increasing decided it was time to switch, said Ray Keller, Apple King general manager.
Davis said he’s known Apple King for 20 years and did business with it last year.
Apple King’s conventional fruit will still be marketed by L&M Northwest, based in Raleigh, N.C.
Apple King joined with Oneonta Starr Ranch in June, Davis said. The agreement is for all of Apple King’s organic fruit but it just has apples right now, Keller said.
Gilbert Orchards was in organics “before organics was defined,” Davis said, and provided Oneonta Starr Ranch with its first organic cherries this year.
While the gap in profit margins between organic and conventional has been narrowing as organics increase in volume, organics “are still a premium above conventional and allows us to craft a more hearty retail program with all our retailers,” Davis said.
With consumer demand for organics still climbing, Oneonta Starr Ranch has become more proactive in finding ways to highlight the product. Last year, it introduced new, oversized purple price-look-up (PLU) stickers on fruit for greater visibility and to reduce checkout stand mis-reads, Davis said.
This year’s focus is a more sustainable pouch bag with 25 percent less plastic and more recycled paper, he said.
Picture: Dan Wheat Capital Press – Pink Lady America – Oneonta Starr Ranch of Wenatchee, Wash., has boosted its inventory of organic apples through a new deal with Apple King and more fruit from Gilbert Orchards.