Local Growers Hoping that "Grab Apples" will Bear Profitable Fruit


July 11, 2006

A duo of local apple growers hope the fresh sliced apple business will be a new component of the area's apple industry.

Fred L. Glaize orchards and Fruit Hill Orchards, which have banded together as Fruit Hill Slices LLC, will start supplying apples to a New York company - Champlain Valley Specialty Company - with this year's harvest. The companies operate major Winchester area orchards. Glaize has about 600 acres, while Fruit Hill has the majority of its 2,500 acres in apples.

Glaize's business already deals primarily with the shipment of fresh apples, while the most of Fruit Hill's fruit is used in processing.The New York firm will slice the apples and send them back to the Winchester area in small or bulk bags with the brand name "Grab Apples", and then they will be distributed to schools or other institutions from here, said Phil Glaize, president of Fred L. Glaize.

This year will be the first time that Virginia apples will be part of the "Grab Apples" bags, Glaize said. The local apple varieties to be included are Fuji, Granny Smith, Empire, and Gala, he said. The fresh apple slice business has been around for a few years and looks to continue growing, Glaize said. That's why Fruit Hill Slices decided to give it a shot.

The company looked at three slicing companies before settling on Champlain Valley, he said. Although no prices or customers have been solidified, Glaize said school systems in Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach have already shown interest in carrying the healthy snacks. When the slices were test-marketed in area schools, the response to them was positive, he added.

Wherever the slices go, they will probably end up in customers' hands through a combination of direct shipping and distribution by wholesalers, Glaize said. Fresh slices will likely play a part in apple industry's future, at least in the Winchester area, according to Glaize. "I would say that to keep orchards around here, the fresh apple business is going to have to be a component of an ongoing orchard."

For now, the local slices will only be sold on the East Coast. There won't be any shipping to the Midwest - "yet," Glaize said.