Prior to the invention of grocery stores, people would grow their own food or purchase some from a vendor at the market. Trading commodities has been around almost as long as humans, which is why farmers markets are still popular to this day. If you have an orchard or farm of your own and you like growing produce, you've probably already considered selling your goods at a market.
However, there are a few key differences that separate growing food for business purposes from leisure. Numerous questions arise when you're picking fruit, such as "Is this ripe?", "How do I package it?" and "Will this taste good?" Thankfully, this guide will show you how to pick and package apples for the market.
Follow the Right Tips for Selecting the Freshest Apples
Before you can start packaging them, you must first pick the best apples from your tree. In the beginning, you should check the apple to make sure that it's firm and visually examine it for any impurities.
Next, feel the skin around the apple and see if it's smooth, then press your finger on a small area to make sure the apple is solid and not squishy. If you didn't already know, the color is a fantastic indicator of a tasty apple. Looking for the most colorful apples is very helpful when picking fruit.
You also want your farmers market apples to be visually appealing to customers. Some scuffs and marks are acceptable because it shows consumers that you picked the apple fresh, but you don't want them to appear too out of the ordinary.
Any apples with visible decay or bruises should be kept for yourself or given away. Also, the aroma should tell you if the apple is ready for the farmers market. Different types of apples will have stronger fragrances than others, but the smell should always be pleasant.
Use the Apples That Aren't Ready for Market in Your Own Kitchen
It's a shame when some of the apples you yield are not picture-perfect enough to be ready for market. However, apples that are too soft or mushy are still fresh, so you can keep them for yourself and use them in your own kitchen.
For instance, if you are growing red varietals, you want the green background to have red, pink, and orange hues in there. But if yours don't have enough color, they would work great for home cooking because they are still fresh.
Apples that absorb the most sunlight will have the fullest colors, but those that don't still taste great. If you're going to bring some of your yield home with you, know which varieties work best in different formats. Softer apples are more suitable for smoothies, juicing, or homemade applesauce, with the bulkier ones working better for baking.
Consider the Sales Setting When Packaging Your Apples
Depending on where you will be selling your apples, you want the packaging to reflect the environment where consumers will purchase the product. There are four main market types for selling apples: direct to consumer, wholesale, restaurants, and grocery stores. You'll want to package the apples differently for each space.
First, let's start with farmers markets. To draw attention to your vending area, display your apples in large bins or boxes to make it easier for customers to choose which individual fruit they would like to buy. Setting them out on a tray or putting them in breathable bags would also work, and you can even use green packaging to showcase your environmental consciousness.
Having reusable apple bags for sale
is another environmentally friendly option you should give consumers. All you have to do is reach out to a print shop near you to put your logo and business name on tote bags, and then you can start selling. In addition to being cheap to make, they are an invaluable way to market your brand.
Farmers markets are great settings for developing a close relationship with your customers because of the face-to-face interaction, so get to know them on an individual level so that they keep coming back. A public market functions similarly to a farmers market, except the setup is permanent. For this type of sales environment, your packaging can be as detailed or relaxed as you please.
Farmers also sell to Community Supported Agriculture groups to reduce distribution time. These groups purchase a portion of a farmer's crops before they sell them, which guarantees a buyer for the farmer when they harvest the crops.
However, you should be able to estimate your crop yield reliably before selling to a CSA, so get that part down before joining one. Packaging crops for a CSA can be as simple as a cardboard box, but make sure to line it with plastic or have some barrier that prevents the box from disintegrating due to the fruit's moisture.
Distinguish Your Brand When Packaging Produce for a Competitive Market Type
When you want to step up your game and sell apples to grocery stores or wholesale distributors, here is what you should know. First, be aware of the requirements that stores have for the packaging of their products.
Not every store will have the same packaging expectations, so you need to tailor it to the location. Clamshells or trays would work, but perforated bags are also appropriate.
Wholesale distributors are the perfect way to unload all your inventory in an instant, but you need to package them correctly for delivering it to them. Wholesalers usually want their produce in cases or boxes with at least six items in each box. As with grocery stores, reach out to wholesalers beforehand to ensure that everyone is satisfied.
Partnering with a restaurant is another way to sell your apples in bulk quantities on a routine basis. With the farm-to-table movement gaining traction, orchards have the advantage of supplying fresh produce consistently, and you don't have to spend on disposable packaging when you're giving all the apples to a restaurant. Reusing the same bins for delivering your produce to a restaurant is the most efficient and cheapest way to package them for this context.
Overall, there is more to picking apples and packaging them for distribution than meets the eye. So, now that you know how to pick and package apples for market, go forth and delight the apple enthusiasts in your neighborhood.