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King Fresh Produce continues to update and upgrade facilities

This is only the third cherry season for King Fresh Produce, LLC, based in Dinuba, CA, and only the second as a packer, and as such the firm continues to update and upgrade its packing operation.

Salesman Francisco Ilic, who spends the majority of his time touting exports, told The Produce News in early April that the company added optical scanners “and are continuing to do improvements to our packing line.”

He indicated that upgrading the line is an ongoing project designed to enhance the operation that the firm sold to its growers when they expanded into cherries for the 2014 season. Since the beginning of this century, more and more cherry trees have been planted in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Once the Stockton region, located in the north end of the valley, was the focal point of the California cherry season led by the well-known Bing variety.

Over the past 15-20 years, new cherry varieties have been developed that do well in other geographic regions. Ilic said with production spread throughout the valley, and a good portion of it south of company headquarters in Dinuba, King Fresh got into the cherry business.

“We told growers their cherries didn’t have to go 100, 200 or 300 miles north, we could pack them closer to home and it would be better for the cherries,” he said.

Today, the company represents a stable of growers stretching from south of Bakersfield in the Shafter area to Madera, which is north of Fresno. Dinuba sits about 80 miles north of Shafter and about 150 miles south of Stockton.

In these regions, the company’s growers produce the cherry varieties of Tulare, Brooks and Coral. Ilic said King Fresh offers a full-line of cherry packs to retailers with the clamshells and pouch bags garnering the most support.

The company expects to ship its first cherries around April 25 and be in the deal four to five weeks.

“The first cherries (from California) will probably be picked between April 18 and the 21st,” said Ilic. “Our cherries will come on a little bit after that.”

On April 4, he said the cherries are starting to show some good color and he was anticipating a season with more volume than last year. The firm will utilize several different labels including Farmington Fresh, King Fresh, Hy/Flyer and even some under the Eat Brighter banner, which is a Produce Marketing Association initiative that allows packers to tap into a generic promotion program featuring Sesame Street characters.