The Blueberry People held a grand opening ceremony for its Fresh and Value-Added Blueberry facility on July 16th in Alma, Georgia. There were over 250 in attendance between grower-members; business and community leaders; and local and state dignitaries.
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 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 region,” says 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 foodservice and ingredient buyers or poly bags for retail consumers packs,” he adds.
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.
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. As Bob Hawk, president and CEO or MBG, said in his opening remarks with a welcome to all and a long list of community partner ‘Thank You’s’, “From the start of MBG on November 2, 1936 to today …We have come a Long Way!”