“We started a program for frozen cherries in 2013,” says Julie McLachlan of Jealous Fruits. “Our fresh program has no more than 1 percent of a defective product in the box, compared to the industry minimum of 15 percent. In the past, we would have sold these defective products as secondary products, but now we can sell them through the frozen program." The percentage of defective products varies from year to year and largely depends on weather conditions, but typically 8 to 10 percent of Jealous Fruits' production is sold through the frozen program.
Growing International Demand
Demand for frozen cherries has risen steadily. "This is driven by the product's health benefits and its versatility," McLachlan said. People use these frozen cherries as toppings for smoothies, ice cream, or eat them directly as fruit. The export started in North America and has now developed into an important export product in just a few years. Frozen cherries have been sold to Thailand, Vietnam, and China. "We are now in the process of signing a contract with an Australian retailer and have just finalized the details of a January promotion in Dubai. This will be our first export of frozen cherries to Dubai. McLachlan shared. In North America, frozen products are sold in 600-gram and 1.5-kilogram bags. The bulk packs are mainly for those big club stores.
All Jealous Fruits cherries are grown in the Okanagan Gorge in British Columbia. The company's total cherry production in 2016 reached about 7 million pounds, of which 500,000 pounds were frozen. “We could produce 1 million pounds of frozen cherries by 2018 as new plants start to bear fruit,” shared McLachlan. These frozen cherries are processed at their facility in British Columbia. This is a fully certified factory using state-of-the-art equipment to freeze cherries using the IQF method.
According to McLachlan, no other Canadian business freezes only its own cherries. Some traders source from Chile and Turkey and freeze them in factories in Canada, but these fruits are generally smaller in size. “Typically, the size is between 24 and 28 mm, and our product size is between 26 and 32 mm,” McLachlan said. “Also, we harvest the cherries when they are fully ripe, so the fruit is very sweet and looks good." Jealous Fruits sells frozen as well as fresh cherries. "We only pack our own fruit, to guarantee high quality. If we pack other growers' products as well, it will be difficult to guarantee quality."