All Fresh thrives with packinghouses

Two new packinghouses affiliated with Belding, Mich.-based All Fresh GPS are thriving in their first years of operations, said Bruce Heeren, partner in All Fresh.

In 2013, All Fresh and several grower-shipper partners opened Elite Apple, a 55,000-square-foot facility that features 32,500 square feet of packing space.

All Fresh GPS is marketing the fruit packed at Elite, which was built to accommodate more of the new fruit that’s coming on in the state.

“It’s gone very well,” Heeren said of the Elite rollout. “We got the bugs worked out of it early in the season and packed with no problems.”

The Elite facility does not have controlled atmosphere rooms. The seven grower-shipper partners who own it will continue to use their own CA space.

Elite sits on 25 acres, with room to grow in three directions.

A second facility connected to All Fresh, Ridge King, opened in February, Heeren said.

Ridge King, which features 50,000 square feet of production space and 60,000 square feet of controlled atmosphere storage, is a joint effort of All Fresh and its grower affiliate, Heeren Bros.

The facilities, which are about 3 miles from each other, feature sorters that examine apples internally and externally, Heeren said.

The new Ridge King facility replaces another nearby Ridge King packing facility. The company kept in operation a packing facility in Belding.

The new shed could possibly triple the output of the facility it replaced, and it features the only Washington-style wet line for apples in Michigan.


Glei’s Inc. benefits from new equipment

Hillsdale, Mich.-based Glei’s Inc. looks forward to a second season of better-looking fruit after the 2013 installation of new washer and dryer components on its grading system.

“We’re very happy with its,” said Damon Glei, partner in the company.

“It needed to be replaced. We needed to do a better job of making sure we were keeping up with everyone with our wax job.”

Based on the first-season reviews, mission accomplished.

“We now do as good a wax job as anybody.”

In addition to increasing the quality of waxing, the new components give workers more time in the wash bed to scrub fruit, Glei said.


Jack Brown Produce adds three staff

Sparta, Mich.-based Jack Brown Produce Inc. added three staff members this summer, said John Schaefer, the company’s president.

Maria Rivera is specializing in export sales — the first time Jack Brown has placed such an emphasis on exports, Schaefer said. Rivera formerly worked in an export sales position in the publishing industry.

Tom Labbe will focus on domestic sales. Labbe formerly worked for Coca-Cola and Frito-Lay.

Scott Van Houten has been hired to handle logistics for Jack Brown. Van Houten worked in logistics for a local office of an agricultural chemicals company before joining Jack Brown, Schaefer said.


Riveridge Produce in growth mode

Staff changes at Sparta, Mich.-based Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc. correspond to the company’s growth, said Don Armock, Riveridge’s president.

“We have some transitions going on,” Armock said.

“We made a number of changes designed to move people into different roles. Our volumes have increased relatively quickly.”

In early August, the company announced that, as of Aug. 4, Mitch Brinks was a new account manager in Riveridge’s Sparta sales office.

Brinks worked previously for Jack Brown Produce and the Kroger Co.

Also new at Riveridge is Dan Winowiecki, who joined the company after 32 years with Cherry Growers Inc., most recently as director of finance and accounting.

In addition to the two new hires, Riveridge also recently promoted Jeff Armock, the company’s manager of food safety and quality control, to a position in which he will handle more production scheduling and sales.

Jeff Armock is in his fifth year at Riveridge.

By Markets Editor Andy Nelson