Episode 183: Jennifer Parkhill
Oct 06, 2021, Updated Nov 02, 2021
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All produce isn’t created equal in the agriculture industry and with the introduction of managed varieties consumers are able to find precisely the taste and texture they’re looking for. SweeTango has been a trailblazer in the apple category, providing a sweet variety you’ll come back for time and time again.
The “experiment” of the SweeTango apple variety was actually developed by the horticultural research team at The University of Minnesota as a cross between the Honeycrisp and the Zestar!. First hitting the market in 2009, it was their first shot at commercialization of the first managed variety in the apple category. As such, it truly paved the way for other varieties to come to market. Now, SweeTango has growers in New York, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington and even Canada, all of which are hand picked.
Executive Director Jennifer Parkhill is at the forefront at SweeTango Apples as they continue to innovate their variety and make consuming healthy fruits more enjoyable and fun. Growing up in agriculture, Jennifer’s father was a corn and sugar beet farmer in Colorado. Living in the west, Jennifer worked for US Foods for 19 years in marketing and produce category management. That position led her to the co-op that produces the SweeTango Apple trees and has now been with them for the last two years.
While varieties like Red Delicious, Fuji and Honeycrisp are legacy staples in the apple category, managed varieties are actually created through a process of cross-pollination. Because the process is so meticulous and time consuming, managed varieties typically have limited availability and scope. These varieties are created to highlight an apples’ distinct characteristics that may not have been able to occur naturally through cross pollination. Because of this, consumers really have the ability to find the specific taste and texture they’re looking for.
The process of creating a managed variety is a long and arduous one. Jennifer describes it as the ultimate in product research & development as some varieties can take 20-30 years from start to planning and getting an apple on the market.
“You have to be resilient if it takes 20 years to develop a product.” Jennifer Parkhill (06:19 – 06:22)
While most managed varieties are more limited, Jennifer states that SweeTango is starting to be released for longer and longer after the growers have seen how valuable it is and how high of a demand there is for it. For consumers, once you’re a fan of SweeTango, you don’t want any other apple; it is that good!
Jennifer says that the best part of the SweeTango apple is that they’re good for you, while tasting amazing. No parent will feel any regret when giving their kids more apples because they like the taste.
Because SweeTango apples are grown nationwide, they’re trying even harder to reduce their carbon footprint by selling the apples in the same region that they’re grown. SweeTango is also working on being more sustainable growers by cutting down on plastic usage in packaging in the next few years.
Jennifer also offers a challenge to consumers: next time you’re at your local grocery store, pick one of each variety of apples. Take them home and do a fun activity with your kids. Have your kids or friends cut and rate each apple by taste and texture. This is a fun way to find what they like and don’t like about each variety. You will be amazed at the different tastes and opinions of each of your contestants!
Finding SweeTango apples near you has never been easier. Apples can be found at Wal-Mart, Trader Joes, Aldi, Costco and Kroger. If they don’t happen to be at your local big box grocer, the company recently launched a product locator on their website making it easier to find marketers simply by entering your zip code.
How to get involved
- Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
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Previous episodes you may enjoy
- Episode 182: Lee Holden
- Episode 181: Lisa Helfman
- Episode 180: Katie Hotze
- Episode 179: Dr. Lior Lewensztain
- Episode 178: Dan Zauderer