Michigan-based blueberry company MBG Marketing has opened a new individually quick frozen (IQF) processing and packing facility in Alma, Georgia, which has been hailed as the biggest of its kind in the Southeast United States.
The company, which is part of the grower-owned Nature Farms group, has also built a fresh blueberry distribution center to service North American customers with a capacity of more than 10 million pounds during the region’s growing season.
A company release added the center would have room to expand to match anticipated production growth as well.
MBG’s COO Larry Ensfield said the new facility would enhance the company’s ability to quickly process berries for growers in Georgia and Florida, while also serving as a back-up facility for producers in other parts of the country.
“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 USA,” Ensfield said.
“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°F degrees in less than 6 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.”
A Naturipe release said the expansion of MBG’s fresh and value-added processing capabilities – building on another facility that was opened in Bloomingdale, Michigan in 2013 – continued to enable the group to satisfy the needs of a growing market and demanding buyers, while improving returns for growers.
At the official opening ceremony on July 16 there were more than 250 people in attendance, including Alma Mayor Peggy Murphy and Georgia State House Representative Chad Nimmer.
During the presentation, Nimmer paraphrased a letter from Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, who highlighted the blueberry industry’s positive economic impact on the region.
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