Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak has taken a big step toward addressing supply chain, labor and high-demand issues head-on.

In December, the sliced-apple specialist installed robotics on the case-packing line in its Cashmere plant.

“We pack a quarter of a million packages every week, and in the past we’ve had to hand-pack all of that,” said Tony Freytag, the company’s executive vice president. “Automation is not to get rid of people but to help us grow.”

By the end of the first quarter of 2022, Crunch Pak expects to complete round two of its automation process, which could include tray filling and other packing processes.

“We’ve had double digit increases coming out of our plant,” said Andy Kimbrel, Crunch Pak’s vice president of sales and marketing, citing the need for automation.

Going forward, Crunch Pak will have to work harder than ever to continue innovating in the way its retail partners have come to expect from the company, while balancing the need to come up with more efficient ways of handling higher demand and supply chain issues, Kimbrel said.

“Customers are looking to us to automate and innovate,” he said. “We need to push the limits on innovation but also crank out more product, and those two things don’t always go hand in hand.”

Freytag said that customers understand that and appreciate it when their supplier partners make multi-million dollar investments in putting out the best products possible in ways that keeps shelves stocked.

“This is our 22nd year, I don’t see it slowing down and I don’t want it to slow down,” Freytag said. “It’s extremely exciting.”