Gypsy Road Trip: Tastee Caramel Apples are a tasty treat

Beverly Kerr
Guest Columnist

The Hackenbracht family knows a good apple when they see one. At Tastee Apple, autumn is their busiest season beginning with the popular caramel apple. Using quality products produces an apple with satisfaction guaranteed. No wonder this apple business has been around for 47 years.

Tastee Apple is located at 60810 County Road 9, Newcomerstown on the banks of the Tuscarawas River.

Owner John Hackenbracht had an orchard and managed the Ohio Fruit Growers Marketing Association, so apples were constantly on his mind. While he had thoughts of selling caramel apples, it wasn't until his son, Greg, was graduating from high school that the business actually began. Greg would go to college six months out of the year and work at Tastee Apple, Inc. the other six.

Once Greg received his BS in Marketing from Bowling Green State University, he joined Tastee Apple on a full-time basis. Since Greg grew up on a fruit farm with 4,000 apple and peach trees, he was very familiar with fruit from childhood on and loved promoting it.

The business began with one caramel machine and a recipe that Greg developed himself. They still use that original recipe from 1974. Its smooth taste can't be beaten, and that's why they're called America's Favorite Caramel Apples.

The first year they made 50,000 dozen caramel apples. Today, they make the same amount in four days. Things are more automated now but they still employ 150 people in the plant during peak season. They treat everyone with kindness, just as they would like to be treated.

Over the years, John and Greg have tried various other products, but the caramel apple has stood the test of time. From 1980-2013 they produced cider and shortly after they discovered a way to use the pumice leftover from the cider. They dried and ground it into a fine powder, which was added to fruit fillings, cereal, and exotic pet food.

The Hackenbracht family likes to try new ideas and over the years have made apple chips, potato chips, sweet potato chips, and popcorn balls. An idea for the future is chocolate bark, which has been requested by several companies already.

An assortment of caramel apples produced by Newcomerstown company Tastee Apples.

Tastee has sold over 250 million apples with candy, chocolate, caramel, and other toppings. All the apples are chosen by a process that guarantees the quality and freshness of the fruit. Even the apple firmness is measured before being cleaned carefully to avoid bruising. In 2015, Greg added a special probiotic to be sprayed onto the apples after cleaning to keep them even healthier.

Approximately 10% of the apples that come from reputable suppliers are rejected, as Tastee Apple is striving for perfection. These discarded apples are used by another company for cider or juice.

The perfectly ripe apples are then “sticked” in made-from-scratch kettle-cooked caramel or a candy coating. After the apples cool, they are dressed by being rolled in toppings such as chocolate, fresh peanuts, pecans, cookies, or pretzels. Currently, the triple chocolate apple is one of their best sellers.

No apple gets the Tastee Apple label unless it is fresh and perfect. Quality is their main concern. While the fresh apples are dipped in a generous coating of caramel or candy, the more important ingredient for the Hackenbrachts is family pride.

Their aim for perfection can be seen in what they consider “seconds.” These are apples covered in perfection but the stick was not placed straight. These are considered not acceptable for their outlets.

Chad Hackenbracht (left) learns the apple business from his dad, Greg Hackenbracht, president, founder and owner of Tastee Apple.

Greg will be retiring soon and his son, Chad, plans to carry on the family tradition. Chad has spent the last few years of his life as a race car driver and is a Nascar champion. Now he's learning the fine points of the caramel apple business from his dad.

Locally, Tastee Apples can be purchased from Riesbeck's and Walmart or by ordering online at www.tasteeapple.com. They are popular all over the United States.

Tastee Apple, Inc. is located at 60810 Co Rd 9, Newcomerstown on the banks of the Tuscarawas River.