The Land: Making applesauce at Peterson Farms, Inc.

February 1, 2020

The Land: Making applesauce at Peterson Farms, Inc.

#TheLand is a series telling the stories about local agriculture. It is a presentation of Peterson Farms, Inc.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Applesauce is one of the go-to foods for us parents. It is also one of the many products produced right here in west Michigan by Peterson Farms, Inc. Established in 2015, the plant produces single cup applesauce that is distributed throughout the United States.

Recently, the company announced it will be undergoing a $22 million expansion, which includes doubling the size of its applesauce production. The company-wide expansion will add 54 new jobs. (See related story here)

Sauce Plant Manager Jason Schultz recently gave me a tour of the applesauce plant. The apples used in the plant are a combination of hard and soft Michigan apples; Michigan is the third largest apple growing state behind Washington and New York. Following harvest, apples are kept in a controlled atmosphere cold storage facility. To keep the apples fresh, the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the room are decreased while the nitrogen levels are increased.

“Prior to processing, each 850 pound bin of apples is tested for quality,” Schultz said. “Our motto is ‘quality in and quality out.’” 

The leaves and other natural parts are removed and they go through a high pressure spray. The apples are inspected as before they move into a blend tank. They are then dropped into a raw product auger and chopped into chunks, then they are transformed into apple sauce. The waste material, such as the core and the seeds, are removed and used as organic fertilizer.

The sauce is then pasteurized at 180 degrees and then transferred into a mix tank. At this point, flavoring may be added to select batches, Schultz said. However, no sugars are added except sweeteners in the flavoring. The plain applesauce does not contain added sugars. Vitamin C is added.

The applesauce then goes into a filling station where it is placed in 4 or 4.5 ounce cups.  The cups are double vacuum sealed then move through a x-ray among other security and quality inspections devices. Each batch is also inspected in a quality control laboratory.

A mechanical packaging machine places the cups into boxes and they are then loaded to a truck and sent to a dry storage room at the company’s facility in Hart.

Schultz said the expansion will double the size of the applesauce production within the existing space of the current equipment.

Peterson Farms, Inc. was established in 1984 by fourth generation fruit farmer Earl Peterson. Peterson had purchased his fruit farm in 1972 and by the mid-80s was producing over 250,000 pounds of tart cherries annually.

Today, Peterson Farms, Inc. is Oceana County’s largest employer with up to 900 seasonal and full-time employees during peak season. The company processes products such as apples, sweet and tart cherries, peaches, blueberries, ciders, sliced apples and more, producing over 150 million pounds of  fruit products and 7 million gallons of apple juices and ciders on an annual basis.

For information on Peterson Farms, including careers, visit www.petersonfarmsinc.com.

This story is copyrighted © 2020, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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