A Prosser food manufacturer has embarked on a major expansion project before relocating its puree operations from Oregon to the Lower Yakima Valley.
Tree Top Inc. will close its Medford, Oregon facility and move the production line to Prosser in 2023, which will add 40 jobs. With a total of 100 employees, the Prosser plant produces juice concentrates, mainly apples and pears.
Prosser Mayor Randy Taylor is pleased with the news.
“Prosser is usually on the losing side when a plant closes and jobs move to another area,” he said.
“These jobs are family jobs. It’s good.”
The move will require $6 million in equipment upgrades at the Prosser plant and other improvements, according to building permits filed with the City of Prosser, though a spokeswoman for Tree Top told the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business that there are more will cost because of the equipment.
Construction is already underway at 2780 Lee Road in Port of Benton’s Prosser Wine and Food Park.
Tree Top called the closure of the Medford plant a strategic move to capture a larger share of the growing fruit puree market.
Purees are used in a variety of foods, from baby and pet foods to juices and yogurts.
Demand for purees has been rising steadily in recent years, with many domestic puree customers looking to suppliers in the U.S. due to food safety and supply chain advantages, Tree Top said.
The move also brings Tree Top’s puree production closer to its fruit sources, resulting in additional production capacity, the ability to meet changing customer demands, reduced transportation costs and improved production efficiencies, the company said.
This will allow Tree Top to compete effectively with other manufacturers globally, improve operational stability and create growth opportunities, Tree Top said.
Canopy purees are typically used by commercial customers and are sold in bulk, from 4-gallon pails to 55-gallon drums and 1,000-liter containers. The Prosser plant mainly produces apple and pear purees.
Medford employees have the option to relocate to the Prosser facility or to apply and/or work anywhere within the company and continue in their roles at Tree Top. Tree Top operates facilities in Selah and Wenatchee, Woodburn, Oregon and Oxnard, California.
“We have given much thought and discussion to this closure decision, and we care deeply about the Medford families that will be impacted,” Tree Top CEO Craig Green said in a statement. “We believe this move is critical to the continued growth of Tree Top and our ability to produce quality food that we would be proud to share with our friends and family.”
The move makes sense to the mayor of Prosser: “They’re a well-run company,” Taylor said. “They are central to the market they buy from and the market they market to.”
Tree Top acquired the Prosser facility from Seneca Foods in 1999.
Based in Selah, Tree Top is a 700-member, grower-owned cooperative that produces juices, fruit-based products and ingredients for consumers and food and beverage manufacturers.
The cooperative employs 1,000 people, including those of its subsidiaries.