(May 6) CHELAN, Wash. — Some of the largest fruit companies in Washington’s northern district have decided to combine into one of the largest fruit-marketing entities in the country that will control 80% of the district’s fruit.

Chelan Fruit Cooperative and AltaFresh LLC — the marketing venture for Brewster-based Brewster Heights Packing and Wenatchee-based Magi Inc. and Gwin White & Prince — will consolidate their marketing programs.

Several changes occur under the agreement:

    Magi will merge its grower-owned cooperative with Chelan Fruit Cooperative of Chelan.

  • The merged Chelan Fruit cooperative will then take Magi’s place in AltaFresh, a combined marketing entity formed last year by Brewster Heights Packing, Magi and Gwin White and Prince.

  • AltaFresh will then open a Chelan office and combine the marketing programs of AltaFresh and Chelan Fruit there.

  • To reflect its new geography, AltaFresh will adopt a new name, Chelan Fresh Marketing, and a new logo.

The deal will consolidate 12 million boxes of cherries, apples and pears into one marketing program.

Welcome Sauer, a consultant and former president of the Washington Apple Commission, said he was hired by the AltaFresh board to coordinate the venture.

Sauer said he would be providing interim management assistance at the outset. Growers for Magi and Chelan Fruit voted for the merger with 93% approval May 4, said Jim Divis, Magi’s president.

Dissenting growers likely will go along with the new program, Sauer said.

“We’ve seen a number of votes from these co-ops over the years. We don’t see the co-ops shrinking,” he said.

Divis said the deal involves practical trade-offs.

“Magi is in a very strong financial position, with low costs and high returns,” he said. “However, we need to invest in new equipment. Chelan Fruit is in a similar position and has already invested in new equipment. It makes more sense for the growers to save the money and share in the economies of scale.”

Magi, Brewster Heights and Gwin White & Prince combined sales forces and formed AltaFresh LLC only last summer, combining for a volume of 8 million boxes of apples, pears and cherries annually.

“This is the next level up in that same along the same lines of that venture, bringing one more large organization into the fold,” Sauer said.