It doesn’t matter whether a recipe is executed flawlessly if the flavor isn’t there. A food manufacturer can have the most advanced equipment, the most effective distribution and the most attractive packaging, but it likely won’t mean anything if its products don’t have authentic flavor. For 55 years, Washington’s Milne Fruit Products Inc. has been providing the food industry with the fruit ingredients people love, making it one of the industry’s most important partners.
President Michael Sorenson explains that the company processes fruit into juice, purees, essences and custom mixes for use in the making of beverages, sauces, bakery items, confections and other products. He says the company’s reputation for quality products and innovation has made it an industry favorite around the world.
Milne Fruit Products provides its customers with many fruit products including concord grape, cherry, blueberry, watermelon and peach. “The majority of our customers are national or global beverage companies,” Sorenson says. “We also work with international trading partners and provide products to be used in beverages, baked goods and confections.”
In for the Long Haul
The fruit ingredient market is a busy one, with numerous competitors all working for their share of the market. Sorenson says the majority of these competitors offer slight variations in product and quality, but where Milne Fruit Products stands apart most obviously is in its devotion to its customers.
“Suppliers and customers choose us for our dedication to their needs,” Sorenson says. “We strive to develop long-term relationships.” As the company marches into its sixth decade of service, he hopes the proof of this commitment is readily evident.
According to Sorenson, the key to building such long-lasting customer rapport is the same as with any relationship. “We engage our customers in day-to-day dialogue,” he says. “We learn what is important to them and find unique solutions to any difficulties they’re experiencing. The Milne team combines years of expertise and modern technology.”
State of the Art
Milne Fruit Products has an extensive network of brokers that brings prospective clients to the company. After they’ve been introduced, the company reviews the client’s requirements and invites the client to visit its facility in Washington.
The company’s facility is one of the chief reasons it can provide a high level of service to its customers. Located on 8.5 acres, Milne Fruit Products’ state-of-the-art plant is designed for high-efficiency, unidirectional manufacturing. It features more than 2.5 million gallons of refrigerated tank storage, more than 17,500 square feet of freezer and shipment staging space and 40,000 square feet of processing space, 10,000 square feet of which is devoted to custom blending and premixes.
Milne Fruit Products stresses the importance of modern technology in its manufacturing facilities. It says all of its major production processes are computer-automated, with touch-screen control panels at each station for maximum ease of use. Additionally, the company utilizes a plant-wide software system to automatically schedule maintenance.
Sorenson says the company continues to make improvements to its facilities, especially in light of changing requirements around the world concerning product quality and residual pesticides. “Customers from all over the world have a heightened awareness of product safety,” he says. “We’ve adapted to this by implementing additional testing and data recording as well as sharing product information and knowledge with our customers.”
The company also is making efforts to develop new product lines in response to customers’ changing needs, Sorenson says. “We’re constantly looking at new products we can produce, or specialty products for customers,” he says. Recent examples of these include a new line of not-from-concentrate ingredients and new aseptic packaging.
Although products and processes are essential to its success, Sorenson says the true source of the company’s success is its people. “The people at Milne really make the business,” he says.
Sorenson describes the culture within Milne Fruit Products as “very honest and open.” Continuing to foster the company’s teamwork-centric environment is one of Sorenson’s top goals, having just assumed the office of president in January.