The Grand Rapids-based marketer and distributor of Michigan apples will have access to and represent two of the most modern apple-packing facilities in the state of Michigan: New facilities currently under construction by Heeren Bros., Inc. in Alpine Township and Elite Apple Co. in Sparta.
Heeren’s previously announced $22 million packing and distribution facility is slated to open in late September. Heeren will utilize 60,000 square feet of the 178,000-square-foot facility for produce distribution and 11,000 square feet for corporate offices. Its packing arm, Ridgeking Apple Packing, will utilize the remaining 107,000 square feet for apple storage and packing.
As part of its modernizing efforts, Ridgeking is investing $5.6 million in a new state-of-the-art apple packing lines, which will allow it to expand color sorting, internal and external defect sorting and presort capabilities. The new packing line will double Ridgeking’s current capabilities.
All Fresh GPS was launched in 2011 by Ridgeking, Michigan Fresh Marketing, LLC and Applewood Orchards, Inc. The company, which markets apples for Ridgeking and Applewood, will also begin marketing apples packed by Elite Apple, which is slated to open in August.
Applewood Orchards is one of seven partners launching Elite, a new 55,000-square-foot packing plant in Sparta. Expected to open in August, the new $7 million facility will feature state-of-the-art packing with internal and external capabilities.
Additionally, All Fresh has added Sally Lutz and Ken Meyer, two veterans of the produce industry who will focus on expanding business development and enhancing grower relations.
“While last year was a challenge for fruit farmers in Michigan, this growing season is off to an excellent start,” said Tom Curtis, president of All Fresh. “We are very excited about the 2013 apple crop, which has all the earmarks of being one of the state’s finest. We are especially delighted to represent three new managed varieties of apples SweeTango, Pinata and Kiku and assist with their even broader introduction to consumers this fall.
“All Fresh GPS is well positioned to take advantage of what appears to be a great growing season. We have made a significant investment in new people and new facilities that will position All Fresh to enjoy further market expansion.”
Sally Lutz brings more than two decades of experience in the apple industry to the company. In her new role as quality control coordinator, she will be responsible for implementing quality control standards throughout all the packing operations of All Fresh. In addition, Lutz will work with the 75+ grower operations that All Fresh represents, assisting them with education and implementation of new food safety standards that the grocery industry is demanding of growers, packers and shippers.
Prior to joining All Fresh, Lutz served as an office, plant manager and facility manager for two of the industry’s leading apple-packing plants. In these roles, she had responsibility for wholesale and customer relations, employee hiring and supervision, purchasing, USDA audits, inventory and related areas.
Lutz holds an associate’s degree from Davenport College in Grand Rapids.
Ken Meyer will serve as the manager of new business development for All Fresh. Meyer brings nearly 40 years of merchandising and marketing experience to his new role with the company, where he will be responsible for identifying and securing new retailers for All Fresh apples.
Since 1985, Meyer has served as the merchandising and promotion manager for the Michigan Apple Committee, developing extensive contacts in the Southeast and Southwest in retail, wholesale, restaurant and food service operations. While working for the Michigan Apple Committee, Meyer analyzed market conditions and trends, building relationships with packers, shippers and processors on behalf of the fresh and process industry.
Meyer also has extensive experience in the food service and food brokerage industries, working for Sysco Foods, PYA Monarch, Le Gout Foods and E Skinner Inc. in various capacities.
“We are extremely pleased to welcome two such experienced professionals in the apple industry to All Fresh,” Curtis said. “They have extensive knowledge of and relationships in the apple industry in and beyond Michigan. Sally and Ken will be crucial in helping us strengthen our connections in the industry and continue to add new growers and retailers.”
About All Fresh GPS, LLC
Launched in 2011, All Fresh GPS, LLC markets, sells, distributes and merchandises fresh apples throughout the United States and into the global market. Ridgeking Apple Packing & Storage joined forces with Michigan Fresh Marketing, LLC and Applewood Orchards, Inc. to create a new company dedicated to better serving customers and expanding into new markets. All Fresh GPS represent more than 75 family-owned grower operations that represent 10,000 acres of Michigan apple orchards.