West Michigan packers move to improve Honeycrisp packs

Riveridge Produce Marketing implements 10-point HC protocol

Sparta, Mich.  Saying the reputation of the Michigan Honeycrisp apple is too important to pack it like any other apple, Riveridge Produce, LLC, and its six Michigan packing houses have implemented a 10-point protocol to ensure high quality carton packs.

As the volume leader for Honeycrisp production in Michigan, we feel a responsibility to our apple buyers  and our growers  to pack the best possible quality Honeycrisp that leads to consumer satisfaction and minimal shrink on the sales floor, said Don Armock, CEO of Riveridge Produce Marketing, Inc.

Given that Riveridge is expecting record volumes of Honeycrisp this year and the next five or more years, we came to the decision that we needed to formalize our best practices for this unique apple, Armock said. Many of these items we were already doing, but by adopting them as official protocol and training to these standards, we will raise the bar on Michigan Honeycrisp quality.

Armock said that among Eastern apples, Riveridge has the highest percentage that goes through state-of-the-art external /internal defect sorting technology. This helps detect bitter pit and internal browning the top quality issues associated with Honeycrisp.

Riveridges Honeycrisp protocol addresses orchard, storage and packing practices. Orchard practices include sun protection and calcium supplement guidelines, and multi-pass and stem-clipping harvest practices. Riveridge has also established strict maturity protocols for harvest timing and storage to ensure apples are fully sweet and ripe when they arrive at retail.

Best practices in storage include specific conditioning techniques, as well as the latest storage research from Michigan State University and other leaders in fruit physiology and storage.Weve been talking about these practices and everyone throughout our organization recognizes the need to deliver perfect Honeycrisp to consumers to maintain its premium status in the marketplace, Armock said.

Honeycrisp, a northern apple bred by the University of Minnesota in 1960, has been the most popularly planted apple in Michigan since 2007. Michigan has more than 1 million Honeycrisp trees in the ground, Armock said. According to the US Department of Agriculture Honeycrisp now comprises at least 8.5 percent of Michigans apple acreage.

With these new plantings entering their prime bearing years, were optimistic that Michigan will be in the Honeycrisp market into at least February, Armock said. Our supplies have typically been gone by mid-November because of such strong consumer demand for a northern-grown Honeycrisp.

Exactly half of Michigans Honeycrisp trees are planted in the Fruit Ridge/Grand Rapids area, according to USDA data, the headquarters of Riveridge Produce Marketing, Inc. Riveridge is a vertically integrated apple grower/packer/shipper, selling apples in up to 26 states and a dozen foreign countries.