(Feb. 27, 3:11 p.m.) Crunch Pak is planning to take an even bigger slice of the cut-apple business.

National marketing director Tony Freytag said a recently completed facility upgrade has increased Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak LLC’s capacity by 50%.

“We’ve been operating at capacity for the past year,” Freytag said. “That’s not a good place to be. It makes it difficult to grow your business because you’re always maxed out.”

When Crunch Pak launched in 2000, Freytag said the original plan was to market sliced apples to retailers, foodservice operators and schools. However, he said the retail business has grown so rapidly that the other segments have been somewhat overlooked because of capacity constraints.

Freytag said that with the renovations completed, Crunch Pak plans to put new emphasis on pursuing foodservice business. The company also plans to pursue the pilot program recently announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will offer cut apples to schools.

“The visibility of our retail business has gotten the attention of foodservice companies and schools, and they’re realizing this works,” Freytag said. “It’s perfect for schools.”

Freytag said Feb. 25 the company’s sales were 40% ahead of the same time last year. Crunch Pak has moved to bigger facilities twice in its relatively brief history, and this is the third remodel of the current facility. Freytag said the Disney Garden brand has boosted sales by more than 20% since Crunch Pak started supplying that product in the third quarter of 2006.

The 2.8-ounce bags required for the Disney Garden line also helped hasten the latest remodel. Freytag declined to offer specifics of the company’s new packaging machinery, but he said it is more efficient for packing small sizes.

Freytag said Crunch Pak was processing an average of 65,000 pounds a day before the renovation, which was completed in late January. He said the company was processing about 100,000 pounds a day in February and had done as much as 129,000 pounds in a day.

Crunch Pak has a 19,000-square-foot processing area in its 70,000-square-foot facility. Freytag said the facility always has had four processing lines, but the building only had one feeder system until the recent renovation. Segregating the lines with separate feeder systems allowed Crunch Pak to have a dedicated organic line. In the past, the company had to sanitize a line every time it switched from conventional to organic product.

Freytag said organic apples account for more than a quarter of sales, but growth has been restricted by the availability of raw product. He said organic acreage in Washington is expected to increase dramatically in the next few years, which should allow Crunch Pak to increase its organic volume.

Freytag said the renovation was completed a little bit at a time during a three-month period. He said that in order to keep up with orders, the company never shut down the line for more than two days in a row.

“We have to keep running all the time,” he said.

Upgrade boosts Crunch Pak’s capacity by 50%
Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak LLC has completed a processing facility upgrade that includes separate feeder systems, allowing the company to have a dedicated organic line.