Oregon Fruit Products & OBI CompSAFE
Cultivating a safe work environment, year after year
CEO Chris Sarles
Oregon grows some of the best summer fruits and berries found anywhere. But once it’s picked, that fruit stays good only so long. Enter Oregon Fruit Products. Since 1935, the company has been “bringing fruit to life” and providing unique fruit solutions to the food and beverage industry. In the early days, it was by canning local product for consumer use. Today, the business has expanded to provide fruit ingredients to your favorite local and national restaurants as well as many breweries and cideries throughout the US, its iconic black label fruit cans gracing grocer’s shelves across America. Oregon Fruit Products offerings include blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, red raspberries, and strawberries; cherries, including dark sweet cherries, royal anne cherries, and red tart cherries; and purple plums and thompson grapes.
“Oregon Fruit Products has an incredible heritage,” said CEO Chris Sarles. “We’re trying to take the great work that’s been done in the past and find new ways to bring fruit to life.”
The company employs 85 people year-round, and roughly 150 in the summer months. It’s a diverse workforce, with positions ranging from forklift drivers, fruit sorters in the plant, a team in the office, as well as sales people both local and remote. Whether in the field or on the sorting floor, safety is a priority. “We start new employees with safety training, and discuss it regularly,” Sarles continued. “SAIF, in partnership with our insurance broker, Ward Insurance Agency, has analyzed our systems and workflow to identify ways we might reduce strain. They’ve enhanced our overall safety efforts. Each day, we review what’s going to happen on the floor. There are often tasks that one person could complete, but we assign two people to decrease the likelihood of injury due to repetitive motion.”
Oregon Fruit Products is proud of its high employee retention rate. “The lack of turnover has resulted in a high awareness of safe practices,” Sarles added.
Staying abreast of legal and trade developments that can impact a business can be a time-consuming, resource-intensive task. That’s one reason companies like Oregon Fruit Products join Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) (which formed in 2017 with the merger of Associated Oregon Industries and Oregon Business Association). “Our core competencies center around running our business,” Sarles reflected. “We can’t be out in front of all the regulatory issues that impact us. OBI keeps us informed of where things are going on a state and federal level. This information is invaluable.”
Another perk of OBI membership is eligibility for CompSAFE, a program that makes workers’ compensation insurance from SAIF available at major discounts. “SAIF has always been very responsive to our needs,” Sarles added, “and with the CompSAFE discount, we enjoy price breaks we simply wouldn’t otherwise see. We’ve been fortunate to have had just a few minor claims in the past few years, but we’ve been able to get our people right back to work.”