In 2006, Jacqueline Alexander purchased a pear orchard located at 3993 Highway 35, Hood River. Her business Morale Orchards, LLC grows Asian pears in this upper Hood River Valley orchard. “I was interested in developing a value-added product,” says Alexander. Her initial plan was to produce Asian pear schnapps as way to increase revenues from culled pears that otherwise would be destroyed or sold for minimum price to juice companies because they fruit is imperfect from inclement weather, insect damage or from simply falling to the ground. Jacqueline’s twins Morgan and Alexander suggested she make candy instead. With her research, and thinking that more Americans are looking for ways to snack healthier, Jacqueline transitioned their suggestion into a business model for freeze-dried fruits.
Jacqueline worked with the Food Innovation Center (FIC) in Portland to develop her ideas and concepts. According to Dr. Qingyue Ling, FIC’s senior development engineer, this dried fruit has a 20- year shelf life, is lightweight, easy to ship and has been shown to bake well in cakes and muffins. Additionally, these fruit puffs preserve all of the nutrition of fresh fruit without any additives while creating a shelf-stable, value-added product that is perfect for snacking as well as adding to baked goods, trail mix, granola, or yogurt as an ingredient to boost nutrition. Founded by both Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the FIC is partly a laboratory for testing food preferences, but it also aims to combine food science with economic development.
In 2013, Jacqueline obtained a $92,500 loan from Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (MCEDD) to help build and install the prototype freeze-drying equipment at FIC. With successful testing and product production, Jacqueline has branded her fruit puffs with the Know Your Fruit brand and is nearing completion of the construction of a processing plant called The Puff Factory. The 29,500-square-foot facility, located at 3030 Lower Mill Drive in Odell will house the main processing floor, including cold storage, conveyer belts, an industrial-scale fruit dryer and other required processing equipment. An elevator will lead to a second level with office space.The company plans to have a workforce of about 30 to start with the anticipated September 2018 opening, with up to 50 once operations gear up.
For more information about Know Your Fruit and the Puff Factory can be found at www.knowyourfruit.com and on the Know Your Fruit facebook page. You can contact Know Your Fruit at 541-400-0818 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Know Your Fruit is a single-origin, freeze-dried fruit snack brand. Know Your Fruit uses only the freshest, locally-grown fruit to make its super delicious, single-origin freeze-dried fruit puffs.
The MCEDD Loan Program is available to entrepreneurs, start-up businesses and existing businesses doing business in the five county (Sherman, Hood River, Wasco, Klickitat and Skamania) Mid-Columbia area. This loan program is part of MCEDD’s efforts to strengthen and support the region’s economy.