Sliced Apples from Crunch Pak®: Greatest thing since sliced bread.
Only 14 short years ago, shoppers were at a loss to find fresh-sliced apples on their supermarket shelves. At that time, the technology to deliver a delicious, crisp product simply did not exist. Enter Crunch Pak®, the original and leading supplier of fresh sliced apples in the world today.
Founded in early 2000, Crunch Pak® began with the belief by a few apple growers in Washington State that people would eat more apples if apples were easier to eat. But while many thought the idea was a good one, few believed it was possible to maintain freshness after slicing.
“The idea had spectacular potential, but most people had given up on it because of the lack of technology to keep the apples from browning,” said Steve Lutz, president and CEO of the Washington Apple Commission during Crunch Pak®’s inception. “In addition to figuring out the technology, they then needed to create a market by teaching consumers there was another way to buy apples.”
Crunch Pak® founders Tony Freytag (now the company’s national marketing director), along with the late Craig Carson and John Graden of Dovex (an apple grower and shipper) worked with NatureSeal/Mantrose to develop the technology to treat apples and maintain their freshness after slicing. Together, the team came up with the ideal formula to keep an apple crisp and fresh after it was sliced: A combination of vitamin C and calcium to prevent spoilage, slices of the proper width to maintain freshness, and breatheable packaging to ensure optimum quality during transportation to market.
According to Freytag, “Very few companies can claim that they helped launch a completely new concept to the marketplace that has become an international success.”
But success didn’t come overnight.
In 2002, Publix stores of Lakeland, Florida, took the plunge and became Crunch Pak’s first major supermarket customer. Other supermarkets soon took notice.
In 2005, Crunch Pak® gained further exposure when Costco featured its organic sliced apples. The company received national attention in 2006 when a reporter from The New York Times met with grower/founder Craig Carson. “An apple is like us. It’s alive,” Carson said. “If we don’t handle it correctly, we can kill it.” It was Carson’s commitment to quality that fueled success for the company.
Today, Crunch Pak®’s sliced apples are widely available in supermarkets nationwide, and organic sliced apples represent 30% of the company’s business. Crunch Pak®’s product line has evolved from simple bags of sweet and tart apples to include a full line of snack items that pair sliced apples with caramel or fruit dips, cheeses, pretzels, grapes and more.
Crunch Pak® apples are also available in thousands of convenience stores nationwide, serving as an oasis in many of the nation’s food deserts. “We are thrilled to provide a healthier option in local convenience stores. It can be hard to eat healthy when you’re not at home, but we’re trying to make that easier by providing a good choice,” Freytag says. “Ultimately, we believe it is the quality of Crunch Pak® apples that won people over and built the product into an entire category.”
Three times the sales … in just four years.
While many companies have struggled during the recession, Crunch Pak® stepped up its marketing efforts and boosted business. The trend continued in the first quarter of 2010, as sales increased significantly compared to the same time period in 2009. Crunch Pak® recently expanded distribution into Canada.
Today Crunch Pak® is the largest sliced apple producer in the United States. One apple, sliced into 12 pieces, has a 21-day shelf life. Crunch Pak makes about 2 million apple slices a day and more than 1.7 billion apple slices a year. If laid to end to end, the slices would reach around the world – twice.
“It is the passion and drive of the Crunch Pak® team that have made us the success we are,” says Freytag. “When we say 12 years, 5 billion slices, one slice at a time…we really mean it. Every slice is looked at by people, not machines. They are the ones who make it happen.”
In 12 short years, Crunch Pak® sliced apples have transformed the idea of snacking, making it possible to have safe, healthy, ready-to-eat produce available on the go.
“The most rewarding aspect of our success is seeing kids eating Crunch Pak® apples at lunch or after a game,” Freytag said. “We’ve helped revolutionize snacking by making nutritious options easy and accessible. It will have an impact on our kids’ health and eating habits for years to come.”