Craig Green, president and CEO of Tree Top, shared concrete plans for the future of the Selah, Washington, fruit processing company as one of the highlights of the morning session at Day 1 of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association Annual Meeting on Dec. 6, in Yakima.
One of them is a protein product due on store shelves sometime in the next 12 months. He didn’t name it yet.
“We will be doing more brands,” he told the collection of growers and industry officials in the Yakima Convention Center conference room.
Like many food companies, Tree Top is trying to adjust to shifting consumer demand for products with lower sugar content, cleaner labels, local sourcing and portability. Green assumed the title of president and CEO in January 2021.
The company also now markets its own hard seltzer, the only one on the market that uses real fruit juice, he said, and a new juice brand called Fruit + Water.
Meanwhile, Tree Top intends to make capital investment in some of its plants, Green said. It will extend its apple sauce pouch capacity in Selah in 2022 and move puree production from its plant in Medford to its Prosser plant in 2023, he said.
The company will close its Medford facility but will continue to take all the fruit and more that it had been taking in Medford, Green said in an interview after his presentation.
Demographer and geopolitical speaker Peter Zeihan delivered the keynote address, predicting the collapse of China as an economic and political superpower and an increased investment in heavy equipment manufacturing and microchip plants in the U.S. and Mexico. He also predicted the supply chain crisis to continue through the end of 2023 and the era of easy capital to end soon.
Mike Willett, former manager of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, took attendees on a historical tour of the industry meeting past challenges as he delivered the Batjer address. The tree fruit industry came up with alternative ways to control codling moth through pheromone disruption and diversified its variety portfolio in the wake of the 1989 alar scare, he said. He called on growers to lobby their representatives in government to invest in Washington State University’s research centers in Wenatchee and Prosser.
The annual meeting will continue this afternoon with more economic presentations, updates from WSU and the state Department of Agriculture, and research updates; horticultural presentations and Spanish sessions on Tuesday, followed by a session dedicated to the WA 38 apple on Wednesday.