Sponsored by Oregon Business

Chill factor

| Print |  Email
Articles - July/August 2012
Monday, July 09, 2012
0712 Tactics 04
Jim Merryman, president and COO of Oregon Freeze Dry in Albany.
// Photo by Adam Bacher

Strawberries and low-cost energy, two abundant Oregon resources, prompted Oregon Freeze Dry to set up shop in Albany in 1963. The food processor was founded as a supplier of strawberries for Post Toasties Corn Flakes, says president and COO Jim Merryman. When the cereal brand failed, Oregon Freeze Dry realized “Vietnam was going on heavy,” Merryman says.

So the company went into the military-ration business, landing its first contract in 1967 with the federal government for 4 million pouches of food. Postwar, returning troops were still hungry for the product, a demand that led to the birth of Mountain House, the company’s pioneering backpacking brand. “We created the whole market segment,” Merryman says. “At one point, we were 100% of the market; 40 years later, we’re 75% of it.”

Staying true to a core product while exploiting new market niches has been a hallmark of Oregon Freeze Dry, a food processor with five business units: the government and backpacking divisions, private-label products for companies such as NutriSystem, industrial ingredients for other food processors, and freeze-dried pharmaceuticals. “We have worked hard to make sure we have many legs to our stool,” Merryman says.

But that diversification has come at a cost: The company occasionally has “shorted” its own brands in favor of supplying other companies. A 38-year company veteran who became president in 2011, Merryman plans to devote more resources to house-branded food products. The company also is expanding its pharmaceutical division, a new direction manifest in a 12,000-square-foot pharmaceutical research building in Albany that will break ground later this year.

“My strategy is for OFD to be a branded freeze-dry food company and a branded freeze-dry pharma services company,” Merryman says. “Then, with any ‘leftover’ capacity, we will supply other customers.”

The self-described largest diversified food freeze-dryer in the world, Oregon Freeze Dry grosses more than $100 million annually and employs 350 full-time and 200 part-time employees in its Albany administration, research and production facilities. A European joint venture employs another 75 in Denmark and England.



More Articles

100 Best Nonprofits announced

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

1015-nonprofits01Oregon Business magazine has named the seventh annual 100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon. The rankings were revealed Wednesday night during an awards dinner at the Sentinel Hotel in Portland.


Video: 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon 2015

The Latest
Monday, October 05, 2015
100-best-NP-logo-2015-video-thumbVIDEO BY JESSE LARSON

Profiling some of the organizations featured in the 2015 list.



Linda Baker
Thursday, November 12, 2015
111215-taxilindaBY LINDA BAKER

Raye Miles, a 17-year taxi industry veteran, lacked the foresight to anticipate the single biggest trend in the cab business: breaking the law.


Tinker, Tailor, Portland Maker

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The artisan generation redefines manufacturing.


Where Do We Go from Here?

Guest Blog
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
102115-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | CFA

Volatility reigned supreme over the summer. The old Wall Street adage of, “Sell in May and go away,” was prophetic in 2015.


Reader Input: Made in Oregon

November/December 2015
Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Two trends dominate the manufacturing sector: onshoring and the rise of small-scale production manufacturing, known as the "maker economy."


Planter's Punch

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Molly Rogers believes she has found the solution to excessively syrupy cocktail mixes. She first just needs people to understand her product isn’t foliage.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02