Published by: The Dalles Chronicle

Oregon Cherry Growers recently got the “royal” treatment for its innovation in dried fruits.

The grower-owned cooperative based in The Dalles has been honored as one of the state’s top manufacturing companies by the Portland Business Journal.

It was the new Royal Harvest line of dried fruits that drew praise at the 2014 Oregon Manufacturing Awards ceremony on Oct. 30 in downtown Portland. OCG received the award for large company product innovation of the year.

The line of ready-to-eat dried fruits was recognized for a proprietary drying process that protects the natural sweetness of the fruit, as well as maintaining the texture and moisture content.

PBJ HonorsThe Royal Harvest fruit line includes strawberries, blueberries and cherries and encompasses products made with all-natural ingredients, according to Tim Ramsey, president and CEO of the company.

“We saw an opportunity gap and started a product line to fill that gap,” Ramsey said Wednesday.

He said, so far, the product has exceeded expectations.

“The dried fruit segment of the food industry is a $50 million business annually and it was a significant opportunity for us,” Ramsey added.

“The moisture level is the key,” he said. “There is an optimal level for moisture in dried fruit so that it can be used in baking and added to cereals.”

He also noted that the cooperative is trying to deliver the highest value return to its growers by finding ways to develop new products that meet the needs of a changing food industry.

Although several major international companies are testing Royal Harvest fruit for inclusion in their own products, the cooperative has already had a strong response from smaller bakeries, chefs and other food professionals, said Ramsey.

The product was marketed to the food service industry in June and is designed for year-round use in culinary and bakery applications. It is primarily sold to restaurants, bakeries and confectioners, while also being used in products from Haagen- Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, as well as Russell Stover chocolates.

OCG also sells maraschino cherries and dried fruit under the Royal Harvest brand online at www.oregoncherriesonline.com as well as at select WinCo and Costco stores.

The line of dried fruits is geared to the food service industry, so consumers will not be seeing Royal Harvest on most store shelves, said Ramsey.

The fruits, which are Non-GMO (genetically modified organism) Project verified, are natural, preservative-free and sweetened with Fair Trade certified pure cane sugar. The product is also kosher and halal certified.

“We work hard to stay on the cutting edge and deliver fruit ingredients our customers are looking for, while maintaining the highest standards for quality and taste. With hundreds of manufacturers located in Oregon, it is a true honor to be recognized as one of the state’s leaders in product innovation,” Ramsey said.

The cooperative, founded in 1932, employs more than 300 people in The Dalles, processing more than 25,000 tons of cherries annually – the largest producer and processor of sweet cherries in the world. It has two facilities in The Dalles; one near First Street and Madison Street that is primarily used for pitting fruit and the other at the Riverside location where infusion, drying and freezing take place.

Fruit sent to the Salem facility is used for maraschino cherries.

See the original article here.