Jim Davis, the new president of Snokist Growers, Yakima, Washington, believes the future is bright for canneries, so long as they develop new products for today’s consumers.
Snokist Growers, a cooperative with 250 members in Washington, California, and Oregon, is the oldest and largest pear canner in the United States. The company ships both canned and fresh tree fruits, with the cannery division accounting for about 75 percent of the total business.
The company hopes to further expand its canned fruit business, Davis said. "We’re wanting to focus on that and grow that area as much as –possible." Snokist will expand the range of products that it packs in the single-serving sized plastic cups that have become popular. It currently produces diced peaches, mixed fruit, and applesauce of various flavors in the small cups.
It also plans to produce a shelf—stable sorbet-type product made of pear pureé, which is designed to be frozen before being consumed. In addition, it will supply baby-food manufacturers with processed apples and pears in aseptic packaging.
Snokist was founded in 1903, and Davis is optimistic about the prospects for its second century in business.
"There’s definitely a future for the cannery," he said. "It’s probably not so much in the traditional canned product because there’s so much overseas competition, but definitely these value-added products have a great potential."
Davis grew up on an orchard in Selah, Washington, and earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Western Washington University. He is a director of the Pacific Northwest chapter of the National Society of Accountants for Cooperatives. He has worked for Snokist since 1992 and was chief financial officer for six years before being promoted to company president in August this year.
He succeeds Valerie Woerner, who returned to California after heading the company for six years.