SweeTango Growers Focus on Doing Good, Keeping Open the Pipeline to Market

Swedesboro, N.J.  – Growers of SweeTango® apples from coast to coast are bringing life to the mantra “do well by doing good”, supporting food banks and feeding programs in communities hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And at the same time they are taking steps to protect their employees by implementing social distancing and other safety measures, SweeTango’s North American growers’ cooperative is moving to keep the supply chain flowing for this top-10 branded apple variety.

“In times of crisis, food offers more than nourishment, it gives comfort. It is our honor to give some small comfort to neighbors who are hurting,” said Jennifer Parkhill of Next Big Thing, A Growers’ Cooperative.

To help keep grocery displays stocked with SweeTangos, Next Big Thing’s Eastern Region continues to ship high-quality domestic SweeTangos while the co-op’s other regions have begun to import fruit from trusted partners in the Southern Hemisphere.

Apples Donated Coast to Coast

SweeTango growers from Nova Scotia and New York state to Washington state, and Michigan in between, have so far donated more than 100,000 apples to food banks serving communities hard hit by COVID-19. 

Fowler Farms in Wolcott, N.Y., donated more than 100,000 SweeTangos to Foodlink, Inc., which supplies food to pantries across the state. Applewood Fresh Growers in Sparta, Mich., has donated apples to help feed children who don’t have access to school meals due to the crisis, and to Feeding America to distribute to food-insecure Michiganders.

Stemilt has partnered with Rotary First Harvest to provide fruit that is distributed regionally through Northwest Harvest Food Banks. Scotian Gold in Coldbrook, Nova Scotia, Canada, has donated apples to groups including Feed Nova Scotia and Open Arms, which supply fresh foods to those in isolation with health risks, and to families now facing food insecurity.

“There’s just something about taking a slurpy bite of a crunchy, juicy apple that is sustaining,” said Stemilt’s Roger Pepperl. “Apples are an original comfort food, and SweeTango is an incredible apple,” agreed Applewood Fresh Growers’ Scott Swindeman. “What better way to give back than by giving one of the healthiest foods available?” Fowler Farms’ Austin Fowler added.

Like other essential businesses in the produce industry, the SweeTango community is also managing the impacts of COVID-19 on their places of work – from figuring out how to practice safe social distancing or to telework, to adapting to market changes.

“We do not underestimate the important role we have during this crisis. With schools and restaurants closed, families are relying heavily on their local grocery stores for quality fresh food,” said MacPherson.  “We’ve extended our work hours to meet demand, and are collaborating with our retail customers to help keep their stores stocked. We will do whatever it takes.” 

SweeTango nudging toward year-round supply

This is the first season that SweeTango apples have been available on the North American market after the New Year; the co-op reports growers harvested a record crop last fall, especially in the East, which has maintained its eating quality in storage. Meanwhile, Next Big Thing is tapping into additional supplies available from SweeTango growers in the Southern Hemisphere.

That serendipity is now presenting opportunity for retailers who are racing to meet burgeoning demand from consumers who are eating three meals plus snacks at home.

“We had a record crop, it just kept coming,” said Fowler Farms’ Austin Fowler. New York state SweeTango grower Jay Toohill of Chazy Orchards noted that fruit quality, flavor and color are outstanding. “The way the fruit is holding up is exceptional, like no other year.”

“The quality of the fruit shipping after the New Year is showing us that this apple will store very well,” agreed Applewood Fresh Growers’ Swindeman. “The condition and flavor coming out of our controlled atmosphere rooms has been fantastic.”

“SweeTango’s flavor and crunch make it one of the best apples in the world,” said Stemilt’s Pepperl. “Our biggest problem this season was that we could have had more volume.” 

“SweeTango’s quality has continued to excel among all apples, this is a top-5 trademark apple when it’s in the market,” said Pepperl, a former retailer. “When you talk to growers, it’s a rare occurrence that they don’t say SweeTango is one of the best apples in the United States. Even our competitors tell us this is a great apple. That has to influence retailers’ choices – the market is blessed with many varieties, so make great choices.”

The co-op’s Eastern sales desks continue to market domestic supplies of SweeTango remaining in storage in that region; Applewood Fresh Growers has also been marketing Eastern SweeTango supplies to retailers based in the Central region.

Meanwhile, Pepperl reports that supplies of SweeTango apples from Chile are now available in the West from Stemilt, which has sold out of its 2019 crop. Scotian Gold’s MacPherson reports they plan to import SweeTangos from New Zealand’s Yummy Fruit.

A complete list of SweeTango sales desks is available at sweetango.com/about/for-retailers/sales-desk/.

“We are on our way to being a year-round apple, our fans demand that,” said Fowler.

Photo caption: The grower cooperative Next Big Thing’s SweeTango apple is a top-5 branded apple when it’s in the market. Photo credit: Next Big Thing.


Next Big Thing, A Growers’ Cooperative is a 47-member cooperative of family growers, spread over five time zones from Nova Scotia to Washington state. The co-op licenses, grows and markets premium, managed varieties of apples, beginning with SweeTango. More information on SweeTango can be found at www.sweetango.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sweetango.


SweeTango’s distinct taste, texture and quality stem from careful breeding, expert horticultural practices, and meticulously selected growing locations.  Apple breeders at the University of Minnesota crossed the sweet Honeycrisp and the tangy Zestar! apple varieties to create SweeTango. Using a painstaking process, these expert breeders manually cross-pollinated SweeTango’s parent apple varieties just like Mother Nature does. The first crop of SweeTango reached grocery stores in the United States and Canada in 2009. SweeTango is a registered trademark of Regents of the University of Minnesota.