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Naturipe builds berry-processing facility in Southeast

MBG Marketing held a grand opening ceremony for its new fresh and value-added blueberry facility July 16 in Alma, GA. There were more than 250 people in attendance between MBG and Naturipe staff, grower-members, business and community leaders, and local and state dignitaries, including Peggy Murphy, mayor of Alma, and Georgia State House Representative Chad Nimmer.

Alma is home to the second individually quick frozen value-added processing and packing facility owned and operated by MBG;Bob-Hawk---CEO-Pres-MBGBob Hawk, MBG president and chief executive officer. the first was opened in Bloomingdale, MI, 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 regions” Larry Ensfield, chief operating officer of MBG Marketing, said in a press release. “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 U.S.A. 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 degrees fahrenheit in less than six 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.”

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.

In 2013 MBG celebrated its 30th anniversary in Georgia. Don Wade, a retired grower-member who was one of about a dozen growers in that initial co-op meeting in 1983, said during the grand opening celebration that “We started with just a couple of acres and now there are over 22,000 acres of blueberries planted in the state.”

Mayor Murphy thanked MBG for expanding its Georgia operations, supporting the community and continuing to invest in the city of Alma and Bacon County. In addition, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal sent his best wishes for success in a letter read by Rep. Nimmer. Paraphrasing the governor, he highlighted the positive economic effects on the region as a result of the blueberry industry and in particular when grower organizations, such as MBG, make a long-term investment and commitment such as this new facility.

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 its growers. “From the start of MBG on November 2, 1936, to today, we have come a long way,” Bob Hawk, MBG president and chief executive officer, said in his opening remarks.

Naturipe Farms LLC is a grower-owned producer and international marketer of healthy, premium berries. With production primarily from multi-generation family farms located in the prime berry growing regions throughout North America and South America. The diverse grower base ensures year-round availability of locally grown and in-season global conventional and organic berries.

Naturipe Farms, formed in 2000, is a partnership between MBG Marketing, Hortifrut SA, Naturipe Berry Growers and Munger Farms. For more information visit: www.naturipefarms.com or https://www.facebook.com/Naturipe.