Fruit Ridge Apple Company
While growing up, Joe Rasch lived and worked on orchards and basically fell in love with the business. When he had established some orchards of his own, he and his brother also decided to take an active role in the apple packing process by opening Fruit Ridge Apple Company in 1997. It’s a strategy that allowed them to follow their produce from tree to truck, and ensure maximum quality to the end consumer. Today, Joe has become sole owner of the packing facility, which is managed by Ted Kaupa who formerly worked in the apple business for Joe’s father. “It’s a good family, and a great work environment,” explains Ted. “The Rasch family has worked in the West Michigan area and been a strong influence in the industry for generations.” Since its inception, the packing house has partnered with Riveridge. Jointly they’ve built a partnership in sales, marketing and many other aspects of the business.
In recent years, Fruit Ridge Apple Company has witnessed impressive growth and has doubled its production capabilities. The facility is now equipped with 10 controlled atmosphere (CA) rooms and can store up to 160,000 bushels for processing over the winter and spring months. New at Fruit Ridge in 2013, was a new packing line that provided state-of-the-art internal and external defect sorting, and sizing capabilities. Some of Fruit Ridge’s growth is due to an increase in domestic market share, as well as export sales. “We specialize in packing for a lot of very diverse needs,” says Ted. “We can do all types of packaging and sizes, so that we deliver exactly what the customer needs.” This flexibility allows Fruit Ridge Apple Company to service a variety of markets. New technology focused on food safety and traceability allows the plant to track the exact source of fruit back to the row of trees and the date of harvest. This improves efficiency, accountability and accuracy in quality control.
Ted has also improved both safety and sustainability within the plant. Fruit Ridge Apple Company achieved 97 percent on its last food safety audit, and continues to seek that perfect score. The plant makes it a priority to work with the most effective safety equipment and procedures. Fruit Ridge also utilizes innovative techniques to reduce energy consumption and optimize the sustainability of the facility. One recent technique involves capturing heat expended from the compressor and re-purposing it to warm the facility.
Involved in the industry for most of his life, Ted has a deep commitment to delivering high-quality fruit. “It’s all about doing the best job we can,” he says. With constant communication between the Rasches in the orchards and Ted in the plant, the apples are continuously scrutinized from harvest through shipment. Ted would follow them into the store if he could!