Skip to comments.Graceland Fruit tastes rapid growth ("We're always hiring" in Michigan and Wisconsin)
Posted on 05/31/2018 11:49:23 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
FRANKFORT Consumer demand for healthier food in convenient packaging is fueling rapid growth at Graceland Fruit.
"We have the capacity to process all kinds of fruit," said President and CEO Alan DeVore.
Cherries, cranberries, blueberries and apples provide the bulk of Graceland's product. But Graceland also has processed a variety of more exotic products, like orange peel and mango. The company's sales have accelerated rapidly during the last five years as consumers scrambled to buy products that are vegan and gluten-free.
The Frankfort processing plant runs three shifts five days a week. It just inked a deal with CranGrow to operate a second processing plant in Wisconsin details were reported in a Record-Eagle story in early May. The addition couldn't have come at a better time, DeVore said.
The 61 Wisconsin workers already have the required skills. The extra processing capacity will allow Graceland to sell and distribute more dried fruit more efficiently. But expanding production is nothing new at Graceland. The company has increased production substantially in each of the last four years, DeVore said.
Graceland dried cranberries are sourced nearly 70 percent from Wisconsin, the rest from growers in Quebec.
Cranberries account for a large chunk of the company's production. But the company began as a way for eight northern Michigan cherry-growing families to stabilize their agriculture operations. That original co-op now includes 20 families.
Back at the beginning, in 1973, Graceland built the equipment needed to dry fruit. It experimented to determine the best way to dry and stabilize tart cherries so they could be packaged and stored without freezing. Operations at first were seasonal, in sync with the harvest season, but they became a year-round, full-time operation in the mid-'80s. The company then also stepped up research and development to add other fruits, including blueberries, strawberries, apples, peaches and bananas, to its capabilities.
The company also tried to increase its market by marketing to government agencies and schools, DeVore said.
Ocean Spray which at the time was selling cranberries mostly refrigerated and canned heard about the concept of dried fruit, and contacted Graceland. Beginning in 1989, Graceland was for a decade the exclusive processor of dried Ocean Spray cranberries. Sales outgrew Frankfort capacity, so Ocean Spray added processing capacity elsewhere. Six years later, Graceland and Ocean Spray parted ways. Graceland developed its own network of brokers to sell dried fruit.
The company today has 295 employees, including the 61 in Wisconsin.
Two facilities are in Frankfort a processing plant "up the hill" and the packaging plant at the west end of downtown, just around the corner from the A&W restaurant.
The processing plant dries the fruit on three parallel production lines. The fruit then is transported to the packaging plant, where flavorings and sometimes flour to keep the fruit pieces from adhering to one another are added, and then packaged.
Graceland will process about 50 million pounds of cranberries in Frankfort this year, DeVore said, and expects to process about 35 million pounds in Wisconsin.
But the plant also cranks out a wide range of other dried products.
Dried blueberries are used in trail mixes and baking mixes, but also are sold packaged for direct sale to consumers. Dried apple pieces typically are used in granola bars and in oatmeal mixes.
The company sells dried cranberries internationally. Its cherries and blueberries are sold primarily within the U.S., said Brent Bradley, vice president of sales and marketing.
China appears to be Graceland's biggest growth opportunity, he said. The company has had a sales presence there since 2013 and has been selling product through the Ali Baba web platform for 2½ years. Graceland officially opened a sales office in China in May 2018 and now has three full-time sales representatives working there.
"It's really important to our brand," Bradley said of the opportunity for sales growth in China.
Graceland's biggest challenge, DeVore said, is increasing production to keep up with sales.
"We're always hiring," said Bradley.
Graceland Fruits, did you say?
I’m surprised Priscilla Presley doesn’t already have a patent on that name. John Lennon’s surname is heavily guarded as well.
Do both states have a republican governor?
I think Michigan does, much to many people’s shock.
Right to Work. Thank you Governors Walker and Snyder.
E approves of TCB!
For those that have never been to Michigan often don’t have an idea how big it really is. Add in the Great Lakes and it’s like another country.
Detroit is just one city that gets all the bad publicity, more than often it is deserved - however in the meantime look at the political bigger picture of the state:
MI has a republican President of the United States.
MI has a republican backed, conservative Supreme Court.
MI has a republican Governor.
MI has a republican Lieutenant Governor.
MI has a republican State Senate.
MI has a republican House of Representatives.
MI has a republican Attorney General.
MI has a republican Secretary of State.
MI has a republican congressional margin by a 2:1 ratio.
There is NO state democrat that is elected statewide. NONE.
No blue wall here even tough the MSM would leave a low information voter to believe otherwise.
Also - the growth in Detroit and business investment there is stunning, it really is amazing. We see many urban areas now around the country going through the same machinations Detroit did 50 years ago.
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