• Upcycled Food Association

Sunrise Fresh Dried Fruit Company: The Fruit Waste Solution

In the United States, fruit waste is upwards of 20 billion pounds per year. Whether that happens from farms, processors, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, restaurants/foodservice establishments, or consumers, one thing is for sure- we need to be better about upcycling our food.

“Tons of perfectly edible food is thrown away every year – and we’re not just talking about restaurant and grocery waste – we’re talking about recently harvested fruits and vegetables going unused since there is no market for them.” – Jake Samuel, CEO

Sunrise Fresh Dried Fruit Company is a 4th generation family farming company in the San Joaquin Valley of California. The idea of drying our fresh cherries began on the ranch of 2nd generation farmer Ernie Podesta, who always advocated for value added products to his crops. Throughout his time as a farmer, Ernie never stopped working on new avenues to promote California Cherries, which eventually led to drying. That same pride and tradition continues through Jane (Ernie’s youngest daughter) and Jim Samuel, and their three sons Jacob, Zachary & Case. The entire Samuel family works hard to continue the family tradition through farming and processing of all natural, dried dark sweet cherries.

Before Sunrise Fresh was born, Samuel Farms began in 1991 when Jim and Jane Samuel moved onto a cherry and walnut ranch of Jane’s parents, Ernie and Dorothy Podesta, in Linden California. The Home Ranch became the main staple of Samuel Farms, and was where Jim and Jane raised their three boys. Sunrise Fresh Dried Fruit Company of California was officially established in 2003.

As a farming family, it has always been a goal of ours to use every part of our cherry crop, which led us to not only sell fresh fruit but dried fruit as well. The cherries that we dry are those that did not meet fresh retail specifications; through our proprietary drying process however, we are able to make use of these cherries and create a delicious, healthy product great for snacking and as an ingredient in baking, cooking, etc.

When discussing our drying process, Jake mentioned, “Many of the fruits we use for drying would otherwise end up in a hole in the ground somewhere or used as cattle feed – but because we dry them close to harvest – just like the fresh frozen processors, we ‘save’ a lot of fruit that didn’t meet grade standards or wouldn’t last long enough to get to consumers – even if properly held in a cold storage.”

In 2019, we introduced peaches, pears, apples, and blueberries to our line of fruits under the same premise of the cherries- deliver delicious, healthy dried fruit to our customers and reduce fruit waste. With the consumer trend shifting toward healthier snack options, dried fruit is the perfect solution, and gives us even more reason & capability to reduce food waste.

“We are farmers first, so each year we look to a bountiful harvest and with that it allows us to look at being able to increase the volume of the dried fruits that we produce – and it’s exciting to see that our own branded Sunrise Fresh consumer products have helped us expand our product lines and save more perfectly good fruits from being thrown out.” –Jake Samuel

Our mission is to provide the world with the highest quality dried fruit—and we think we’re doing just that.

Author Bio: Marissa Dargy

Marissa is the Business Development Manager at Sunrise Fresh Dried Fruit Company of California. Being raised by a farming family in California, fresh fruit has always been a prominent part of her life. Now, raising two daughters of her own, it has become even more important to her to share the benefits of fruit and healthy snacking with her family. With a background in sports medicine and health, she is always trying to be a role model for her family when it comes to health and nutrition, and to educate those around her about the health benefits of fruits, both fresh and dried, as well.


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