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2018 a year of growth for Okanagan Specialty Fruits

Though Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. is located in Summerland, BC, all of its commercial orchards are located in Washington state, where it grows its nonbrowning Arctic apples.

“The region has been a focus because of the large availability of land and its optimal conditions for apple growing,” said Neal Carter, president of the company. “We’ve been extremely busy in the orchard rapidly planting more trees so that we can expand our fresh market presence. We have approximately 600 acres of Arctic apple trees planted and that number will increase to over 2,000 acres by the end of 2020.”1R3A9244

Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ nonbrowning Arctic Goldens were certainly a first for the industry and the company is eagerly awaiting the fall harvest so that it will be able to introduce consumers to its nonbrowning Arctic Grannys.

“Innovation is what our company is built around and what is required to differentiate yourself in today’s competitive environment,” Carter said. “Whether speaking about innovation to develop new varieties with novel traits or innovating in our orchards or on the products we bring to market, innovation is core to our mission. Take our introduction of Arctic ApBitz as an example — it’s proven to be a terrific way to minimize waste of off-sized fruit while delivering a delicious, convenient snack to consumers.”

The fall of 2017 was a milestone for OSF, making it the first commercial introduction of Arctic apples. Earlier this year, it introduced its new Arctic ApBitz snacks via Amazon and the response and been extremely positive.

“Snackers are enjoying the sweet crunch of our dried apples and the convenience of having a grab-n-go snack without having to sacrifice nutrition,” Carter said. “The fry cut style of our dried apples makes them easy to eat on the go and really highlights their unique crunch. We’ve also received feedback from consumers that this cut is perfect for dipping, easy to hold for toddler fingers, and they’re perfect for adding to salads or oatmeal.”

The 2018 crop is looking to be of excellent quality and the company is anticipating about 10 times as much fruit this year as last. To that end, it will be offering sliced fruit, whole fruit and its ApBitz in both varieties.

“Given our increased volume of fruit, we are busy ramping up production capacity for both our fresh-cut slicing and dehydrating operations,” Carter said. “Additionally, we’ve planted significantly more acreage and anticipate continuing that trend over the next several years.”

Packaging is also an area where the company is making some noise. In 2018, it has introduced new packaging for all its products.

“Our nonbrowning Arctic apple slices will continue to be available in a convenient grab-and-go bag to make it easy for shoppers to enjoy a healthy and delicious snack from anywhere,” Carter said. “We’ll also be making our Arctic ApBitz dried apples available in two size options to satisfy big and small snack cravings. And, we will be offering grab-and-go bags of whole Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden apples.”

One of the biggest challenges Okanagan Specialty Fruits faces is being “the new kid on the block.”

“Although OSF has been around for a long time, this is only the second season that Arctic apples will be available commercially,” Carter said. “There are a lot of misconceptions out there about bioengineered food but multiple regulatory reviews have all concluded that Arctic apples are just as safe and healthy as any other apple. Education and transparency has been an important initiative and will continue to be as we strive to inform shoppers and retailers about the benefits biotechnology can provide throughout the supply chain.”

2018 promises to be another year full of growth for Okanagan Specialty Fruits.

“Our apples will be more widely available, our product line is expanding and our team is growing,” Carter said. “We have several new positions within the company that will be key to our continued growth, including a new director of sales and a facility operations manager that will play an integral role in the process of developing our own centralized fruit receiving, storage, processing, packing and shipping facility in Washington state.”