Dried fruit venture prospers in Patterson

Photo contributed
Traina Foods success in the dried fruit arena all began with the apricots grown by the founders — Joe and Maria Traina.

When Joe and Maria Traina first began drying and selling fruit after immigrating to California from Italy in 1926, they likely didn’t dream that the combination of sun, soil and spirit found in the San Joaquin Valley would catapult their business into one of the largest sundried fruit suppliers in the nation.

Today, from the family’s original ranch and headquarters in Patterson, Traina Foods is overseen by Joe and Maria’s grandchildren, serving as a pioneer in the 209 for natural farming techniques, the production of organic dried fruit and sustainable farming practices that have led the business to success — just as their grandparents would have wanted.

It all started with apricots, Traina Foods marketing director Vickie Traina said. Her brothers Willie and Joe Traina own the sun dried fruit operation, which first began in the “Apricot Capital of the World” after their grandfather brought the Southern Italian tradition of sun drying fruits to give them a rich, intense flavor to California.

“We’re proud that we produce the finest sun-dried apricots, and it all started with my grandad,” Vickie Traina said.

By 1976, the company expanded from a local farming and sun drying operation and began supplying customers throughout North America with a variety of sun dried fruits. Today Traina Foods is known for its sun-dried plums, nectarines, peaches, pears, tomatoes, cherries, cranberries, blueberries and apricots, of course, to name a few.

The tasty fruits have now even made their way into retail stores, served in convenient six-ounce packages known as “fruitons.” Traina Foods has also recently expanded to create ketchup and barbecue sauces made from their tomatoes, apricots and plums that have been dried underneath the California sun.

“We’re trying to launch our retail brand because over the years, people have asked, ‘How can I get your product?’” Vicki Traina said. “The fruitons are great because it’s convenient. It makes it easier for people to eat fruit when it’s dried and diced, which is good because they should.”

It’s not lost on the Traina family that though some may want to incorporate more servings of fruit into their daily lives, they might not know where to start. The company shares recipes on the “The Porch Life” section of its website, meant as a callback to Traina Ranch’s front porch where the family often gathers to share stories, food and wisdom.

With recipe ideas for light meals on hot summer days, inspiring ways to use the company’s barbecue sauces and craft appetizer ideas, the Trainas hope that sun dried fruit can become an essential part of any diet.

“What’s great about dried fruit is that it stays fresh longer,” Vicki Traina said. “It’s a great way to get your nutrition in an easy way.”

The fruit drying process can take anywhere from seven to 10 days, she added, but ultimately, it comes down to one very important factor.

“It really just depends on the sun,” she said. “We rely completely on the sun; it’s our partner.”

While being a sun-dependent company does have some drawbacks — rainy weather, for example — one benefit that comes from Traina Foods’ solar-savvy ways is in the form of its energy bill, not to mention its impact on the environment.

“We’re all solar powered, from drying the fruit to the facility we operate out of,” Vicki Traina said. “That makes us extremely energy efficient.”

Through forward-thinking energy and a new way of looking at fruit, Traina Foods hopes to continue their expansion, going from a small company that produced sun dried apricots to a national-known brand that can be found in any kitchen.

“What we’ve been doing is introducing people to ‘new,’” Vicki Traina said. “And, it’s good for you.”

To learn more about Traina Foods, visit www.trainafoods.com,