Milne Fruit Products is globally known by food and beverage manufacturers as a leader in the industrial fruit and vegetable ingredient industry. Working with high quality farms, the food processor makes 100 percent fruit and vegetable purees and juices in its state-of-the-art facility in Prosser, Washington.
Milne’s trusted ingredients – which contain no added sugars, colors, or preservatives – are used by manufacturers to create energy drinks, smoothies, salad dressings, dairy products, baking ingredients, baby food, and even pet food for the end consumer.
Though known predominantly for its fruit products, in spring of 2019 Milne Fruit Products will launch a new facility dedicated to the release of new vegetable products.
The experienced company is conveniently located in one of the country’s agricultural havens, surrounded by the farmland and fresh air of the Yakima Valley. It has been involved in the food industry for a long time, and has been affiliated with many industry giants such as Kraft and Ocean Spray before being purchased by Wyckoff Farms, Inc. in 2004. Wyckoff Farms is a local grower and processor of crops that is committed to Milne Fruit Products’ corporate goals of customer satisfaction, product and operational quality, and teamwork. Milne also maintains a corporate commitment to integrity, quality, and consistency.
Interestingly, when Milne Fruit Products was founded in 1956, it operated under the name Prosser Packers, and was predominantly involved in processing Concord grapes for jams and jellies. Over the years, it became a Kraft sourcing plant, until 1975, when Ray Milne purchased the facility with some local investors from Kraft, and the business was renamed Milne Fruit Products.
Ray Milne took his vision of growth to expand the business beyond Concord grapes and into processing of berry fruits, including raspberry, blackberry, cranberry, blueberry, and more. Mr. Milne continued to grow the business until the 1980s, when the large cranberry cooperative Ocean Spray acquired the facility as a wholly owned subsidiary under its Ingredient Technology Group until it decided to divest in non-cranberry assets. This is when the business was purchased by Wyckoff Farms.
Since its purchase of Milne Fruit Products, Wyckoff Farms has invested significantly in plant equipment, product variety, services and capabilities. For instance, a year later in 2005, Milne was awarded its first watermelon process patent, and now owns several. In 2009, it added Aseptic and Custom Solutions divisions.
Then in 2012, Milne launched its line of MicroDried™ products, a 100 percent all-natural product line at a new facility in Nampa, Idaho. In 2016, Milne MicroDried announced that it would be expanding that facility even further and continuing to hire.
To this day, Milne’s expansion continues. As mentioned, next year the company will open a second facility in Prosser to process vegetable purees that will be packed aseptically, including pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots, kale, spinach, peas, and corn.
“Those items will be used in baby food applications, soups and sauces, and other sectors within the food industry that tend to be more vegetable focused than fruit focused,” Michael Sorenson, President and General Manager, tells us.
The expansion, which has been planned for the last several years, will open Milne up to even more new markets. The facility will be unique in that it will serve as a certified, recognized, low-acid, aseptic processing and packing facility.
“It stands out from other aseptic lines,” adds Shannon Elkins, Director of Sales and Marketing. “Not all aseptic processing and packaging lines are capable of handling low-acid ingredients. This new plant and new system will allow us to have even cleaner ingredient labeling with the fact that we would not have to acidify the products.”
In order to meet the needs of the expansion, the company of over 120 people is planning to hire an additional nine team members to kick off the opening of the vegetable facility and the launch of its new products. Because of Milne’s deep commitment to integrity, quality, and consistency, both in its operations and its products through using advanced technology, the company will be seeking individuals who share those values. “The people who work here have a high level of integrity,” Elkins affirms.
“Everybody in the company has responsibilities to make a quality product, representing the company to customers and vendors appropriately,” says Sorenson.
Throughout the decades, the processor has cultivated a company culture of continuous growth and improvement. For example, Milne has an internal program for managers to help them coach staff and grow them into new positions, and also has a tuition reimbursement program for employees who are interested in furthering their education. On a regular basis and across many departments, the Milne team is encouraged to attend seminars and conferences to gain new insights into the industry. Milne Fruit Products is also a frequent participator in industry tradeshows, such as The American Frozen Fruit Institute (AFFI) show, and the annual Institute of Food Technology Show.
“When we post new positions, we always like to hire from within, with people who have already proven to us over time that they are capable and have the desire to grow with the company. It is a focus of ours to always try to promote people into new opportunities for growth,” Elkins remarks.
For 62 years, Milne has earned a global reputation for embracing modern technology to remain a leader in the processing of nature’s most wholesome products. This is achieved through working with excellent growers, investing in its manufacturing processes, and selling the highest quality products it can, as these products ultimately end up on our dinner tables. Part of Milne Fruit Product’s constant push for improvement is its commitment to sustainability.
“When you think about agriculture at its core, when it’s done right, it’s truly sustainably focused,” says Elkins. “Growers are in this for the long haul; they tend the fields throughout the year. The approach is not just from our side, but all the way down to the growers we work with. We want to have good long-term partners – people who are stewards of the land, who can give us the highest quality fruits and vegetables.”
Elkins continues, “We are fortunate to be owned by an agribusiness that truly believes that, and we continue those practices internally in our production facilities. We look at things like how we can reduce our use of water, how we can make sure we clean the water we return to the municipal system, and how we can work with our packaging suppliers to have the best options available.”
Milne’s systemic business approach has helped the business, along with its partners and customers, to succeed. Working together with ethically focused farmers, Milne Fruit Products supplies the food manufacturing sector with quality, 100 percent fruit and vegetable ingredients that both the industry as well as the end consumers can depend on.
“We value the relationship with our suppliers as well as our customers,” Sorenson concludes. “A lot of times, it’s our customers that lead us to new markets.”