In Their Own Words
National Raisin Cherishes its Longtime OU Certification as Symbol of Quality and Social Responsibility
National Raisin Company was started in 1969 by three brothers, Ernest, Krikor and Kenneth Bedrosian. The company was established as a collective bargaining concern because the farmer-businessmen brothers felt added clout was necessary to effectively compete in the marketplace. Since that time, the company has grown to be one of the largest raisin processors in the world.
Linda Kay Abdulian, President and CEO of the company, credits much of its success to partnerships like the OU, where high standards and credibility are paramount. National Raisin is the number one provider of store brand dried fruit, and is a major supplier to commercial bakeries, cereal manufacturers and dairies. National Raisin collectively owns or helps manage over 4,000 acres of raisin vineyards and prune orchards. They are also fig handlers and have begun an active farming partnership in the date industry as well. In addition to raisins, prunes, figs and dates, the company procures and distributes other agricultural products from its worldwide base of suppliers.
National Raisin was started as a family-owned and operated company and has remained true to its roots. The day-to-day management responsibilities have been passed down to the next generation, a group of highly qualified executives who refer to themselves as “G2.” Linda Kay, who, like her siblings, grew up in the business, speaks highly of the OU-National Raisin relationship. She has been instrumental in continuing this path of partnership that her father and uncles started years ago. “We have been proud partners with the Orthodox Union for as long as I can remember. Every one of the 164 million consumer packages and bulk sales boxes we produced last year had the OU symbol of excellence. It’s been our crown jewel since I was a little girl.”
National Raisin sells finished packaged goods to most major food chains, supercenters, drugstores and membership stores as well as ingredient product to many food manufacturers. While most of National’s customers now require OU certification, National Raisin was OU sanctioned many years before that. National Raisin is aware of its unique opportunity as it applies to family life during the holiday season, when baking activity and the resulting dried fruit usage is high. “A large part of our products are sold during holiday periods,” says Ms. Abdulian, “and our consumer data suggests that a high percentage of raisins sold during that period are used in baking. Since baking is celebrated and brings families together, we know the OU symbol ads security and peace of mind. That’s very important to us.”
National Raisin Company’s Mission Statement begins, “To provide safe, high quality food products…”which also reflects the OU’s core values. Indeed, National’s recently updated Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative highlights its ongoing commitment to Honesty, Service, Respect, Safety & Excellence. Jane Asmar, National Raisin’s VP Marketing and Sales adds, “It’s all about being a good provider and a good citizen to the world, and OU certification helps us immeasurably to convey that message. We want our customers and our consumers to know that we are serious about taking responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social well-being.
”National leads the industry in innovative solutions to maximize sustainability. It is home to California’s largest private solar power plant, which produces enough power to supply over a thousand homes. The anaerobic digester, a covered biologically balanced ecosystem the size of three football fields, converts wastewater into potable water used for irrigation as well as producing renewable natural gas for even more additional sustainable energy.
National Raisins’ commitment to the OU requires additional time and effort, which Ms. Abdulian acknowledges enhances the value of the OU partnership. “We know, 100 percent, that our customers care more about the high standard and value of OU-certified product than they do about National Raisins’ scheduling challenges or extensive sanitation procedures. Where else and how else could you promote that powerful of a message so simply as the OU symbol?”
Visitors are impressed with the Fowler, California plant, which is consistently being updated. The facility practically buzzes with excitement and high levels of automation. NRC has one of the most sophisticated production facilities in the world, which stands in stark contrast to the limited amount of executive and administrative offices, which are, literally, trailers. Ms. Abdulian laughs it off and points to the massive building: “THAT’s where the magic happens!”