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With the official start of summer nearing, Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt is kicking off its summer apple program by opening new fresh rooms and utilizing its new Greefa electronic apple sorting and packing line.
The apples reserved for Stemilt’s summer program are “the best of the best,” according to marketing director Roger Pepperl, because of their high qualities identified at harvest that enable them to be kept in long-term controlled atmosphere (C.A.) storage rooms throughout the year. Currently, Stemilt is opening fresh rooms weekly and packing apples on its state-of-the-art commit-to-pack line, which debuted in September and features one of the longest sizers in the world.
“Our new line is the length of a football field, and designed to gently size and sort apples with the use of optic sizing and defect sorting,” Pepperl said. “It looks at the internal and external qualities of every apple through the use of high-definition cameras, and computer software analyzes the photos to size and grade apples. The modern technology helps us deliver great flexibility to our customers and consistency in every pack.”
The new packing line is also useful in color sorting new, bi-colored apple varieties, like Pink Lady, Gala, and Fuji, which have and will continue to be a big focus at Stemilt, according to the company.
“Genetics are constantly changing and improving the qualities and flavors of apples, and Stemilt has stayed on the forefront of investing in new varieties and modern strains of existing varieties,” Pepperl said. “We just wrapped up a great season on our signature apple variety, Pinata, and look to continue supporting consumer demand for Gala, Pink Lady and Fuji apples this summer.”
Another variety, Aztec, is a high-colored and high-flavored strain of Fuji that Stemilt is bringing out of fresh C.A. rooms weekly now and will continue to this summer.
Stemilt will pack Pink Lady apples fresh through the summer, along with the other popular tart apple variety, Granny Smith. The leading apple variety in produce departments, Gala, is another apple that Stemilt continues to pull from new C.A. rooms weekly for pack-to-order freshness. Golden Delicious and Red Delicious apples round out the company’s summer program.
“Apples contribute an impressive 4.6 percent of total produce department sales on average in the U.S. during the summer months (June through August),” Pepperl noted. “That means it’s important to highlight apples during the summer months to not only maintain, but build upon sales.”