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Riveridge experiencing strong season

“We’re where we need to be this year; exactly when we want to be there,” said Don Armock. The owner of Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc. added “We will ship until early- to mid-summer with our core apple varieties, except for Honeycrisp. Honeycrisp will end much sooner” with a short 2019 Honeycrisp crop limiting controlled atmosphere storage holdings.

Honeycrisp supplies for Riveridge will last through mid-winter at the latest, Armock said.

Don-ArmockDon Armock in a young trellised orchard near Sparta, MI, in May 2018.Two years ago, Riveridge started shipping EverCrisp, which has a high eating quality. The company continues planting – and shipping - EverCrisp. To help retailers move the new, tasty variety, Riveridge is engaged in a consumer education program, which includes social media and radio; whether that means drive-time or in-store retail broadcasts. “To a lesser extent, in high-volume stores we make an investment in in-store demos, and more.”

Riveridge is offering distinctive retail and wholesale packaging to identify specific varieties.

“It was a fairly average crop overall. Honeycrisp had a lot of light blocks.” Still, Honeycrisp supplies this season are somewhat buoyed by increased bearing acreage.

Demand early this winter was very strong, according to Armock.

While there was variability in production, “the volume is big enough in the core varieties to last until mid-summer. What helps is that the pack-out is going very well.” This comes from “very good” external and internal quality.

He noted that all the fruit was picked on a timely basis.

At the end of the Michigan harvest, the weather was very cold, but fruit volumes were “inconsequential” at that stage of the season.”

On Jan. 1, 2018, Riveridge acquired its Sparta, MI, neighbor and grower-packer competitor, Jack Brown Produce Inc. The two firms had closely-cooperated for long before the legal date. But Armock noted in January 2020 that the goals set out by the business link are being accomplished.

“When you bring two companies together, there are the day-to-day communications that you need to work out.” The many packinghouses tied into the two firms have worked to standardize operations on important items like food safety and quality control procedures. “You assure everyone’s needs and expectations are met. But that’s a fact of life and it’s going well. It’s not that hard as long as everyone keeps talking to each other.”