September Member Profile: Manzana Products Co., Inc.

Written By: Brytann Busick
Published: September 3, 2019

Located on Green Valley Road in Sebastopol, Manzana Products Co., Inc. has produced apple sauce, apple juice, and apple cider vinegar since 1922. The company originated in 1922 as a small dryer operation known as Oehlmann Evaporator.

Although rolling vineyards blanket today’s current landscape, Manzana Products Co., Inc. serves as a steadfast reminder of Sonoma County’s diverse agriculture industry which once boasted dozens of canneries that produced products from locally grown apples, prunes, pears, and hops. Today, the historic apple cannery is the last of its kind in Sonoma County.

Alissa Trinei, a Sonoma County native, is the Marketing Specialist for the North Coast Organic brand, which is Manzana’s own label. She said that between 8 and 11 trucks on any given day roll into Manzana’s facility to pick up products. Harvest season, though, is her favorite.

“It is always booming here, but especially during the harvest season,” Trinei said. “This is my favorite time of year. It’s what it’s all about. Especially when the Gravenstein apples start coming in.”

Trucks drive in, unload, and apples go into the bath. Then Manzana’s 180 employees go to work transforming them into apple sauce, juice, and apple cider vinegar that are now sold throughout the nation. Products include organic apple sauces in cups, jars, and pouches, apple juices and ciders, apple cider vinegar, probiotic apple sauce and drinking vinegar.

Trinei said that until she got the job at Manzana, even though she was born and raised here, she didn’t even know it existed.

“Nobody knows what we do out here,” Trinei said.

Right here in Sonoma County, Manzana Products Co., Inc. produces over 80% of the organic apple cider vinegar in the U.S. and Trinei said that any apple juices you see on the shelves that are organic and unfiltered are probably from Manzana.

The company started as a small dryer operation known as Oehlmann Evaporator that was owned and operated by husband and wife team, Rudolph and Maude Oehlmann. In 1945, Oehlmann Evaporator incorporated and changed its name to Manzana Products— Manzana is the Spanish word for apple and was selected to honor the many Latin Americans that were employed by the company.

For nearly 100 years, Manzana Products Co., Inc. has produced delicious, wholesome products while preserving agricultural traditions in Sonoma County.

Trinei said that the company’s family feel is a big contributor to Manzana’s recipe for success.

“Some of our employees have been here for 20 or 30 years and a lot of our employees have family members who also work for the company,” Trinei said. “We believe in the product we are selling.”

Many of Manzana’s fruit grower families have been supplying apples to Manzana since 1922, some spanning 3 or 4 generations like Farm Bureau Members Meyer Farming, Walker Apples and Dutton Ranch.

“We get as many apples as we can out of Sonoma County but there are fewer and fewer growers,” Trinei said. “Today we purchase apples from only about 10 Sonoma County farmers. Labor is getting harder and harder to come by and it’s hard for growers to stay afloat.”

In addition to purchasing as many local apples as possible, Manzana sources apples from Washington state and recently purchased all the organic orchards in Arizona.

The plant’s capacity is maxed out but with financial assistance from Agrial, a French cooperative that purchased the company in 2012, Trinei said that they are making many improvements, increasing the plant’s efficiency, and are adding a $4 million dollar pouch production line to keep pace with the growing demand for the packable snack.

Manzana Products Co., Inc. Is committed to sustainability. Since 2012, 42,000 Sq. Ft. of on-site rooftop solar panels supply more than 50% of the cannery’s production energy, with plans to reach 100%. Manzana also has a full-time staff member dedicated to minimizing water usage.

Water from production is re-purposed in the cannery and stored in three large onsite holding ponds. The ponds serve as habitat for a growing bird population and excess water is used to irrigate nearby fields.

Little goes to waste at the cannery. Traditional processing methods use the whole apple to produce apple sauce, juice and vinegar. Local organic farmers pick up the leftover apple pomace that is not used in products multiple times per day to feed livestock. Apple pomace is a rich source of carbohydrate, pectin, crude fiber, and minerals, and is a good source of nutrients for livestock.

In addition to producing for private labels for major chains, Manzana has its own brand called North Coast Organic.

North Coast Organic is committed to producing 100% organic products that are of the highest quality for customers. All products are USDA Certified Organic, non-GMO, and
made from only 100% U.S. grown organic apples. There are no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives in any of their products.

Apple sauce flavors range from traditional cinnamon to tangy apple apricot and their apple juice line includes single varietal juices from Honeycrisp, Gala and Gravenstein apples.

North Coast is the only company today that produces an array of organic single varietal apple juices and sauces.

“When I started six years ago, the North Coast brand wasn’t really anywhere outside of Northern California,” Trinei said. “In 2014, we hired a sales team to start pushing the brand. We went from a $750,000 brand to about an $11 million-dollar brand this year.”

Trinei said that currently, Manzana produces just under 90% private label products, but that they would like to grow the North Coast brand so that production at the cannery is 50/50.

“I’m hopeful that our local growers who have the capability to keep apples in the ground will do so,” Trinei said. “We are proud to be the last standing apple cannery around and are hoping to stay alive for many years to come.”

For apple facts, news, recipes, product information and to learn more, visit their website: northcoast.organic

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