Well as it turns out, having an excess of fruit is a major problem for orchardists and fruit growers all over, as each piece of fruit that doesn’t reach a consumer is a cost to the producer.
This problem is only magnified for organic producers as they steer clear of pesticides and other man-made chemicals used to stave off pests cutting into the usable crop yield even more. Furthermore, competition has become fiercer with the amount of imported fruit increasing due to the demand from the market.
Ron Bixby is no stranger to the struggles of owning an orchard. He has had two orchards in his family since the 1980s and had been supplying his community with his organic crops of mostly heritage fruit. We had the chance to talk to Ron about his experience selling organic fruit and he outlined,
“We were a certified organic orchard and we were selling all our fruit locally…we got organic prices which are much better but we could never use 100% of our crop. Some years we were lucky if we even got 70% to the quality that is needed to sell commercially.”
So how did Ron combat this problem?
As the saying goes, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade; Ron had his interpretation with apples and decided to make delicious cider! His passion for producing hard cider began about 10 years ago as a way to treat friends and family alike with his homemade brew. Things started to click when the State of New York changed its laws to rejuvenate an 80-year-old policy “to modernize state alcohol laws that in many cases date back to Prohibition while cutting red tape, lowering costs, and rolling back burdensome regulations.” This solidified the decision for Ron to completely turn his orchard from crop selling to 100% dedicated to fruit juice processing and hard cider production.
With this change of business model, the orchard turned cidery needed a name which is how Little Apple Cidery came to be. Their first phase of producing fresh-pressed juice was with equipment such as bladder presses, buckets, and a laughing Ron says “lots of plastic barrels.”
As you may have read from our previous blog, “Diving Hard Core into the Cider Business,” it’s no joke! It takes planning, investing, having the right people, and many more variables! Ron knew he could not continue on this journey alone and needed an expert in the field as his ally. That’s how Hayley Shine, a veteran brewer from Chicago came to be Little Apple’s chief cider maker.
Little Apple may have started small but their tenacious ten-year plan outlined growth and expansion. To put this into actionable terms, this meant planting another orchard to double their production. However, with their current cider press equipment this was not viable, it was too labor-intensive and took too long to be able to successfully achieve the targets their plan had set out to attain.
Juicing.Systems had the pleasure of connecting with Little Apple at the ComicCon for cider nerds, CiderCon! Initially, when small cideries look at our products such as the belt press, its capabilities are far greater than the production level they are at currently. Ron with Little Apple had a similar experience, knowing he was still waiting for the growth of the orchard he had just planted.
So why invest in equipment that is too large for your business?
For Ron, this commercial cider making equipment was in alignment with his expansion plans for Little Apple. With their bladder press, the amount of physical labor was exhausting. With the purchase of a belt press, Ron and Hayley have not only been able to press more in the same amount of time but it has opened their eyes to new opportunities. Looking into the future, Little Apple is anticipating the equipment to grow with them as their new trees start to produce more fruit. They have been able to think of directions for the cidery in ways that simply weren’t possible with their bladder press.
“We are not using the equipment to its full capacity, we anticipate that in another year or two and particularly your equipment, it is multi-purpose so there’s a lot of options for doing other things.”
Now you might be thinking, what does he mean by other things? With a belt press, it is not explicitly meant for apple pressing but a variety of different fruits and vegetables. Read more on how our equipment helped a distillery here.
What has Hayley and Ron had to say about their experience?
“We certainly noticed that the yields are higher, getting more juice from the same amount of fruit. And when you have more fruit to press, the whole process will be a lot more efficient because when you are setting up and breaking down for a small amount it’s a little more time-consuming but if you’re going to run more fruit, you’re still going to have the same amount of set up and clean up time.”
To ensure the equipment is set up and performing to its utmost capacity, our service technicians travel on-site to clients all over North America. Often, this is the first time for cider makers to experience a fruit processing operation that is almost completely hands-free! That being said, there are often lots of questions. Having hands-on experience with Kreuzmayr machines with our sister company, Mobile Juicing, we are more than happy to answer!
Remote support no matter where you are!
Often, there are still variables that clients such as Ron and Hayley have questions on after the technician has left. Having equipment mishaps or production halts can seriously affect a cider business and its ability to serve their customers. That’s why we offer every client remote service so they can get back to what they do best, make cider. Here’s what Hayley had to say:
“Remo is incredibly responsive and provides unmatched virtual support. He often makes himself available to troubleshoot in real-time, helping us get back up and running without serious production delays.”
So whether your production scale ranges from a boutique cidery to a commercial scale, investing in equipment that allows you to scale up is highly beneficial for sustainable growth. Give us a call at 250-938-7020 to see how your operation can benefit.
Read more on the changing of New York’s Alcohol Laws: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-signs-legislation-modernize-new-yorks-alcoholic-beverage-control-law