Boxed Water, GoGo Squeez and Garden Fresh Gourmet
While there are lots of other innovative food companies in Michigan we didn't get a chance to see, three that caught our eye at FoodNavigator-USA are:
Boxed Water: Launched in 2009, Grand Rapids-based Boxed Water Is Better claims that its recyclable containers are more sustainable than plastic bottles as 76% of the material used in the boxes is from trees from "certified, well managed forests".
It also ships its boxes flat to its fillers, which it argues is "significantly more efficient compared to shipping empty plastic or glass bottles to be filled".
So what's inside? Carbon-filtered, purified drinking water from a municipal source, says the firm.
"Our goal is to have filling facilities as close as possible to each of the major markets we serve."
GoGo Squeez: GoGo Squeez is squeezable, resealable, 100% fruit in a pouch developed by French company Materne, which started selling the no-spoon, no-mess, kid-friendly packs in the US in 2008.
As the brand started taking off a couple of years ago, securing listings at Whole Foods, Walmart, Target, Costco, Kroger, Publix, SuperValu, Meijer, and Harris Teeter, Materne set up a US office in New York.
It also announced plans to produce the pouches for the US market domestically from a new facility in Green Lake Township, Michigan after teaming up with grower-owned co-op Cherry Growers Inc - which supplies all of the apples used in the products.
As part of a 15-year supply agreement, Materne said it would invest up to $23.4m while Cherry Growers would invest $12.5m to construct the facility and expand an existing operation, creating 72 new jobs and prompting a $2.5m Michigan Business Development Program incentive from the Michigan Strategic Fund.
Garden Fresh Gourmet: After launching 16 years ago in a small diner in Ferndale, Garden Fresh is now a leading producer of refrigerated fresh salsa, hummus, gourmet dips and chips that has carved a niche in the market by investing in high pressure processing (HPP) - a technique that enables it to produce fresh-tasting, all-natural, preservative free products with a long shelf-life.
HPP inactivates pathogens, yeasts and molds, and helps maintain colors, textures, flavors and nutrients that can be damaged by heat treatment, enabling companies to produce 'fresh' products with cleaner labels (preservative-free), and a longer shelf-life.
HPP allows products to be treated in their final packaging, with flexible containers carrying the product into a high-pressure chamber, which is flooded with cold water and pressurized for a few minutes.
The pressure acts uniformly and instantly, causing lethal damage to the cellular structure of bacteria, molds and yeasts, without affecting any structural components of the food itself.