(Jan. 2) YAKIMA, Wash. — A joint venture with Oregon Cherry Growers will allow C.M. Holtzinger Fruit Co. to slice away a larger part of the cherry pie in the Northwest.

Holtzinger and The Dalles, Ore.-based Oregon Cherry Growers have formed a multiyear joint venture under which they will pack and market fresh cherries. Holtzinger will handle all cherry sales for both companies.

Bill Elkins, a salesman for Holtzinger, declined to say how many additional cartons of cherries the venture would bring to Holtzinger’s yearly total. But he said Oregon Cherry’s volume was a significant addition.

“They’re comparable in size to us,” Elkins said. “It basically doubles our volume. Now, with OCG, we’re probably up to the second largest around.”

Under the joint venture, both Holtzinger’s Royal Purple label and Oregon Cherry Growers label will be packed in two fresh cherry cold storage, packing and distribution facilities in The Dalles and Prosser, Wash. Holtzinger will handle all sales under the deal, which won’t affect Oregon Cherry Growers’ personnel because it already had been using outside sales agencies.

Elkins said the venture is a perfect pairing.

“We start much earlier, go to the middle of the season and wind down,” Elkins said. “They don’t get going as early, but they run later. Together, we can serve important retail customers that we can start with at the beginning of the season and run with through the end.”

It also doesn’t hurt, he said, to have a cherry partner like Oregon Cherry Growers that has access to the maraschino, dried and ingredient cherry markets. That way the companies’ cherries that aren’t suitable for the fresh market have an outlet in processed, including in baked goods and premium ice creams, he said.

The two companies have packed fruit for each other the past few seasons and found that they shared business philosophies, Elkins said. A joint venture made sense.
Ed Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Oregon Cherry Growers, said he was excited to team up with Holtzinger.

“Combining our companies’ fresh cherry volume, customer base and packing operations will significantly benefit all our growers,” Johnson said. “We’ve worked with the Holtzinger company for several years and have been impressed with their commitment to their growers.”

Mark Holtzinger, president and chief executive officer of Holtzinger, said the joint venture will give the companies a larger, more geographically diverse grower base that will offer their customers a longer season of fresh cherries.

This is the third such deal in the past two years for Holtzinger. In 2001, Holtzinger reached a similar agreement for apples with the Cowiche, Wash.-based August, Holtzinger began marketing fruit for Union Gap, Wash.-based Clasen Fruit & Cold Storage Co. Inc., an agreement that gave Holtzinger access to a modern packing plant, more apples and more organic expertise.