Upstate farmers benefit from expanding frozen food industry

Sep 20, 2013

The U.S. frozen food market is on the rise, with expectations it will become a $70 billion industry within the next two years.

Last year, upstate New York got in on the action when France-based company Bonduelle acquired three facilities to expand their production of canned and frozen vegetables. They took over the floundering Allen's plants in March 2012, with the intention of repairing and developing the facilities.

Local growers are now set to benefit from the company’s expansion and investment plans.

The company has already poured more than $5 million into the three facilities in Genesee and Monroe counties, in Oakfield, Bergen, and Brockport. Officials say they want to invest a further $15 million in coming years.

Produce for Bonduelle’s upstate facilities comes from about 100 local farmers, all located within 75 miles of the three operations.

CEO of the company’s North American branch Daniel Vielfaure says that’s a model that’s proven successful internationally.

“We don’t think it’s a right model to be the owner of the land and do it ourselves, we like to share with the agricultural people that are in the area where we are,” he says.

Mike Gardenier is vice president of Farm Fresh First, the group facilitating the partnerships with growers. He says the economic impact in the area has hit about $24 million already, and that’s significant for local farmers supplying the processing plants.

“What this partnership does is it brings some stability," Gardenier said. "So one could sit and plan ahead and make investments ahead based around a market that’s stable, I think that’s what’s important about it.”

Bonduelle executives say they chose upstate New York as their entry point into the U.S. market because of its strong agricultural sector and the favorable weather conditions generated by the Great Lakes.