Steve Cygan is something of a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, roaming Pennsylvania and other mid-Atlantic states buying apples for his fast-growing company,
Cygan founded Appeeling in 1991 as a supplier of fresh, peeled apple slices to bakeries. In 1998, a USDA/pharmaceutical research team tested a new technology for extending the freshness and shelf life of sliced apples at Cygan's company using a bath of ingredients including calcium ascorbate. "When it was commercially released, we were in the driver's seat," says Cygan.
Still, in 2009 when Cygan moved his plant to Dauberville in Berks County, there were only about 15 on the payroll. But shortly afterwards, Appeeling was approached by a huge West Coast company interested in private-label retailing of fresh-sliced apples that don't brown and stay crisp and flavorful for 14 days.
Since then, Appeeling has tripled its revenue and grown its workforce to about 100 year-round employees, plus some seasonal help. Its products -- some private label, some branded -- can be found at Giant and Wegmans supermarkets, Target, Sam's Club and convenience stores
Cygan says that private-label packing has been the company's single biggest driver of growth, aided by a strong consumer demand for fresh, convenient, pre-cut produce. Other strong growth areas, he adds, are food service and school lunches.
Now, Cygan is experimenting with different packages to best capture the "grab and go" market, new cuts (think apple chunks for Waldorf salads) and even new fruits such as fresh-sliced peaches.
Source: Steve Cygan, Appeeling Fruit
Writer: Elise Vider