Jul 24, 2014
Naturipe builds processing facility in Southeast

The Blueberry People held a grand-opening ceremony for its new Fresh and Value-Added Blueberry facility on July 16 in Alma, Georgia.

There were over 250 in attendance between grower-members, business and community leaders, and local and state dignitaries including Alma Mayor Peggy Murphy and Georgia State House Rep.Chad Nimmer, as well as MBG and Naturipe staff

Alma is home to the second Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) Value-Added processing and packing facility owned and operated by MBG; the first was opened in Bloomingdale, Michigan in 2013, a facility that has provided benefits to all MBG members and customers by producing blueberries for the Naturipe brand.

“The Alma Facility will enhance our ability to quickly process berries for our growers in Georgia and Florida and will serve as a back-up facility to our growers in our other regions” said Larry Ensfield, COO of MBG Marketing. “This new facility is over 73,000 square feet, with a capacity of 18,000 pounds per hour, making it the largest blueberry IQF facility in the Southeast.

“We are using the latest technologies to sort, wash and then freeze the berries in a state-of-the-art IQF tunnel. Here, the berries are individually frozen to -10° F degrees in less than six minutes to preserve the flavor, nutrients, color and integrity of the blueberries. Additional inspections and sorting takes place before they are packed into bulk containers for foodservice and ingredient buyers or poly bags for retail consumers packs.”

The facility also contains a large fresh blueberry distribution centre, to service the Naturipe Farms customer base across North America. Current capacity is for more than 10 million pounds of fresh berries during the Southeast growing season, with room to expand to match the anticipated growth in production in the region.

In 2013, MBG celebrated its 30th anniversary in Georgia. Don Wade, a retired grower-member who was one of about a dozen growers in that initial co-op meeting in 1983, commented during the grand opening celebration that “we started with just a couple of acres and now there are over 22,000 acres of blueberries planted in the state.”

Murphy, mayor of the city of Alma, thanked MBG for expanding its Georgia operations, supporting the community and continuing to invest in Alma and Bacon County.

In addition, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, sent his best wishes for success in a letter read by Rep. Nimmer. He highlighted the positive economic impact to the region as a result of the blueberry industry and in particular when grower organizations, such as MBG, make a long-term investment and commitment such as this new facility.

The expansion of MBG’s fresh and value-added processing capabilities continues to enable Naturipe Farms to satisfy the needs of a growing market, demanding buyers, and improve returns for their growers, said MBG President and CEO Bob Hawk.

For more information, go to: www.naturipefarms.com or www.facebook.com/Naturipe

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