Largest Berry Processing Facility In Southeast Opens

Naturipe Farms/MBG Marketing held a grand opening ceremony for its new fresh and value-added blueberry facility recently in Alma, GA.

There were over 250 in attendance between grower-members, business and community leaders, and local and state dignitaries including Peggy Murphy, Mayor of Alma, GA, and Georgia State House Representative Chad Nimmer, as well as MBG and Naturipe Staff. Naturipe Farms, formed in 2000, is a partnership between MBG Marketing, Hortifrut SA, Naturipe Berry Growers and Munger Farms. Headquartered in Salinas, CA, it has sales and customer service offices located throughout the U.S., including Grand Junction, MI; Estero, FL; Boston, MA; Wenatchee, WA; and Atlanta, GA.

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, MI, in 2013, a facility that has provided benefits to all MBG members and customers by producing a high yield pack-out of superior quality 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 USA. 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 6 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 food-service and ingredient buyers or poly bags for retail consumers packs.”

The facility also contains a large fresh blueberry distribution center, 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 thanked MBG for expanding its Georgia operations, supporting the community and continuing to invest in the city of Alma and Bacon County. In addition, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal sent his best wishes for success in a letter read by state Rep. Nimmer. Paraphrasing the governor, 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.

Source: Naturipe Farms

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