News Releases

Building for Success: FirstFruits Marketing Now Shipping Utilizing New Technology

BY: Adam Brady | DATE: October 13, 2017

YAKIMA, Wash., October 13, 2017 - FirstFruits Marketing of Washington is building for success during the 2017-2018 apple season with new technology focused on exceeding quality expectations in all of their crops including proprietary varieties Opal® and Sweetie™ apples.

Earlier this year, FirstFruits completed the installation of a brand new packing line and automated palletizing system at their flagship facility at Broetje Orchards in the heart of their growing acreage in Prescott, Wash. The new additions improve the handling of fruit to ensure apples arrive in high-quality condition to assist in maintaining a longer shelf life at retail. The new systems also include improvements to the cold chain process to keep apples chilled from harvest to arrival.

Along with the improvements to infrastructure, Broetje Orchards welcomed Paul Esvelt as their new Post Harvest Manager in August to help manage the facilities and lead fruit storage, production and inventory management. Esvelt is a Washington apple industry veteran with more than a decade of experience.

"Paul will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our organization," said Chuck Zeutenhorst, general manager of FirstFruits. "His diverse skill set and commitment to quality have already had a very positive effect this season."

Organic tonnage at FirstFruits continues to rise, with emphasis on varieties consumers demand including Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Pink Lady and of course, Opal®.

"We continue to invest in and grow our organic program and remain committed to leading the industry in organic farming practices and varietal development," said Zeutenhorst.

Adding to a theme of infrastructure improvements and new technology powering FirstFruits into the 2017-2018 season, visitors to PMA Fresh Summit in New Orleans Oct. 19-21 can get an immersive view of Broetje Orchards through VR Goggles at Booth #1663.

Sweetie™, FirstFruits' early exclusive variety, continues to gain ground this season. Known as Gala's sweeter, crunchier cousin, this Braeburn and Royal Gala hybrid is intensely sweet and juicy with a crunchy texture and is only available for a limited time. The consumer favorite Opal® apple returns to the market beginning in late October. The bright yellow and naturally non-browning Opal provides a sweet and crisp eating experience and naturally resists oxidation that gives it a non-browning superpower. As the exclusive marketer of the Opal®, FirstFruits will offer the variety in both organic and conventional options and expects supplies to last through June 2018.

"The response to Opal continues to grow and remains positive among consumers," said Zeutenhorst.  "There's a powerful fan following for the apple that continues to propel it upwards in both sales and volume. As of last season, Opal climbed into the list of the top 20 varieties."

FirstFruits' apples are supported at retail through comprehensive marketing plans including point-of-sale materials, merchandising bins, social media content and produce manager education. For more information, please contact East Coast Regional Marketer Dennis Jackson or West Coast Regional Marketer Tim Corkill.  Learn more about FirstFruits at

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About FirstFruits Marketing of Washington

FirstFruits Marketing is a collaborative apple marketing company owned by Ralph and Cheryl Broetje. Their growers share a commitment to producing high quality fruit while balancing the demands of purpose, people, planet and profit so that a portion of profits can be donated to non-profit missions supporting the underserved. For more Information, visit

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