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9/26/2012 2:48:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Photo by Kacie Thrift
Bruce Grimm
Photo by Kacie Thrift
Crunch Pak employees work in the new facility that expanded the building by 39,000 square feet. An open house for the new facility was held on Sept. 18. The expanded space allows the company to handle approximately 1 million pounds of raw product per week. Also part of the expansion was the addition of six loading docks.
Crunch Pak shows off new plant expansion
Kacie Thrift
Staff Writer

Crunch Pak recently finished their plant expansion, which in turn, should allow more room for traffic on Sunset Highway.

On Sept. 18, Crunch Pak held an open house so the public could take tours of the new facility. A press release from Crunch Pak said the new addition allows the company to better serve its customers and meet the growing consumer demand for fresh sliced apple products.

The expansion technically started in February when they applied for the permit. However, construction didn't really get moving until March, after the majority of the Sunset Highway construction was finished. Bethlehem Construction of Cashmere was the contractor for the project along with sub-contractor Pipkin Construction, of East Wenatchee.

The new space expanded the company's processing and loading facility space by 39,000 square feet. Half of that space will be used for finished product storage and shipping. The other half will be used as additional processing space.

Cashmere Director of Planning and Building, Mark Botello said the value of just the building is around $2.8 million. This does not include any of the apple slicing machinery or any of the costs for plumbing, mechanical work or the new parking lot.

The media release said the expanded space allows the company to handle approximately 1 million pounds of raw product per week. Six loading docks were also included in the expansion. These docks will make it easier for the company to smooth the process on all levels of orders.

Crunch Pak President and CEO, John Graden, said Crunch Pak deals with around 250 trucks a week causing the highway in between Crunch Pak buildings to get blocked. The plant is shipping constantly except for Saturday night.

"This new facility is a very significant improvement. It's good for us, good for the city, and good for the truckers," Graden said. "This will help serve all of our customers."

The new loading docks make more space available on the highway since trucks can load on Crunch Pak property instead of on the highway. Recently, the area on Sunset Highway where Crunch Pak is located has been a high traffic area due to the trucks loading or unloading product.

Doug Field, president and owner of Excel Fruit Brokerage, has worked with Crunch Pak since they first started out. He said apple growers have been able to benefit from Crunch Pak because they are purchasing apples from growers that are harder to sell.

Executive Director of Washington Horticulture Association, Bruce Grimm said why Crunch Pak is so important to growers.

"The primary part of the manifest is large, high-colored apples that demand a high return in market place. Small, with less color apples, not so much. By taking those apples and turning them into a real value added product that's been a real boon for the apple growers. They made more money on that fruit than they would have if they tried to push it in to the domestic market," Grimm said.

Grimm also mentioned the jobs Crunch Pak has created for the area. Currently Crunch Pak employs 750 people at the plant. With the new expansion they will be able to increase that number to 800.

Diane Carson, one of the company's original founders and current board chairman, said Crunch Pak intends on staying in Cashmere. She said they no longer have the production plant in Pennsylvania and want to continue to keep their business in the Cashmere area.

Crunch Pak has quickly grown in the past few years to become the largest supplier of fresh sliced apples in the nation. The company produces more than 1 billion apples slices a year.

This is just one step Crunch Pak has taken to expand their plant in the past couple of years. The next piece of land Crunch Pak is looking to purchase is the old mill site in Cashmere. Currently, the Port of Chelan County is making efforts to have the site cleaned up by July 31, 2013. Once the site is clean, Crunch Pak has an agreement with the Port of Chelan County to purchase the property.

Kacie Thrift may be reached at 548-5286 or reporter@cashmerevalleyrecord.com.

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