WAPATO — One of the more diverse fruit companies in the state is renaming its brand as it expands production.
E.W. Brandt and Sons has started selling fruit under the label RemBrandt Masterpiece Fruit as it increases its acreage and volume of peaches, apples and cherries in an attempt to keep up with a growing and highly competitive export market, where analysts say brands are increasingly important to consumers.
“We want to continue this slow growth, what I’d say cautious growth,” said Allen Brandt, company president and the third-generation farmer in Wapato.
The launch of the new brand, which features a likeness of a lion drawn by the 1600s Dutch artist, marks the culmination of several areas of expansion for the Wapato company.
Over the past two years, the company has reorganized, added 25 percent to its acreage and bought a new packing facility in Wapato that will handle an unidentified specialty product and fruit for United Kingdom customers who have particular food safety and quality standards.
The Brandts also plan to upgrade their existing packing line to handle three times the volume, recruit more contract growers and boost their own acreage even more.
The Brandt company shipped 1 million boxes of fruit in 2012, 1.5 million boxes in 2013 and hopes to bump that up to 2 million this year, Brandt said.
In terms of volume, the company is relatively small compared to packing houses in the Valley that churn out 10-11 million boxes, but the firm is probably one of only five facilities in the state to pack many different kinds of fruit — peaches, apricots, nectarine, plums, cherries, pears and apples, Brandt said.
To focus on its core business, the company also spun off its nursery business to a family member, who operates it as a separate business.
The expansion aims to keep up with the growing demand of foreign markets, something many fruit companies are doing these days.