The Lake City EDA and Chamber of Commerce named Pepin Heights Orchards, Inc., has been named Lake City Manufacturer of the Year for 2016. In addition to growing, harvesting, packaging and shipping apples from its Lake City operations, Pepin Heights Orchards also presses and sells apple cider.
Pepin Heights Owner Dennis Courtier purchased his parents’ small orchard in the late 1970s. It has since grown into a vertically-integrated orchard, packing, processing and sales organization. Pepin Heights’ core strategy of developing and commercializing new varieties has helped the company to differentiate itself in an industry that historically has favored high-volume commodity producers. Today, Pepin Heights is involved with apple breeding programs around the world, and regularly receives international visitors.
Following that core strategy of new variety innovation, Pepin Heights was the first commercial-scale producer of the Honeycrisp apple in the world. Honeycrisp has grown into the #6 most-grown apple in the United States. Pepin Heights is now commercializing another University of Minnesota apple variety, SweeTango. To establish this apple as a national brand, Pepin Heights built a network of growers, packers and sales desks across North America. To date, more than one million SweeTango trees have been planted, with another million planned.
Pepin Heights wholesales apples to fine retailers across the midsection of the country from Minnesota to Texas, and sells direct to consumers through Pepin Heights’ Lake City store. Pepin Heights’ cider is sold wholesale to retailers, bulk to a variety of hard cider makers which they then ferment and sell under their labels, and direct through Pepin Heights’ Lake City store. At peak season, the company employs around 200. For more information, visit www.pepinheights.com.