Kingsburg-based fruit company The Ugly Co. grows its reach by expanding to a manufacturing plant in Farmersville
REEDLEY – To ensure that “ugly” fruit has a chance on store shelves instead of ending up in waste bins, a local business continues to further its reach across the Central Valley as well as the nation.
Originally started in Kingsburg, The Ugly Co. expanded into Farmersville last year in March. By purchasing a manufacturing plant in the town, company founder Ben Moore said the business will have an easier time processing its fruit products at a high level and skill. Once the remodeling and rebuilding part of the plant is complete, Moore said it’s expected to get up and running in May.
“Farmersville is really proud to have us set up shop there now, and we’re really proud to be part of that community as well,” Moore said. “I really can’t say enough about how important it is to be doing this right in our backyard.”
Moore started The Ugly Co. in 2018, followed by the company’s products first hitting the shelves in 2019. The company takes fruit not deemed fit for fresh sales and upcycles them into healthy dried fruit snacks. The company’s products include dried cherries, peaches, white nectarines, apricots and kiwis. In addition to The Ugly Co. website, the snacks will be available in Sprouts stores nationwide, select REI, Whole Foods and HyVee stores and Kroger Banners, like Ralph’s and Fry’s, later this year along the West Coast.
“This is our Ugly solution,” Moore said about the company on The Ugly Co. website. “EAT UGLY.”
A fourth-generation farmer himself, Moore said having so much experience with agriculture was the most valuable asset out of anything when it came to establishing his company. His passion for the business is also fueled by it being located within the Central Valley, benefiting the community with both produce and job opportunities.
“I think our hottest place [of sale] right now is in our backyard of the Central Valley,” Moore said. “We just launched a nationwide route and I think our best performing stores are right here in the Central Valley, and I love it.”
On the company’s origins, Moore said he started the business as a way to give use to “ugly” fruit, or fruit that wasn’t deemed fit enough to be sold fresh. Before he was giving “ugly” fruit a chance on the market, Moore worked for a trucking company he started about 10 years ago. In that time, he hauled waste coming from farms and noticed a lot of fruit was going to waste. He said he began adding up what he and other drivers were hauling and estimated that they were dumping millions of pounds of fruit per year.
“If I started looking at what the industry as a whole was doing, it just came to the conclusion that there was no sellable demand for this fruit and there was nothing to do with it,” Moore said. “The farmers, of course, were faced with dumping it. I just kind of put it all together.”
There were two main challenges to overcome in getting the business up and running, according to Moore. The first was getting a processing plant established for the company, which was achieved with the purchase of the Farmersville plant. The second was building up a genuine consumer demand for the “ugly” fruit, which is what earned the brand its name.
“I’m a pretty simple guy, so I wanted to communicate as easily as possible what we were doing by naming it The Ugly Co.,” Moore said.
At the basis of it all, Moore put an emphasis on his appreciation for customer interest, above all else. He said he, and everyone else with The Ugly Co., are happy to be here and hold gratitude for the people supporting it.
“Our company is great, but it’s the people around it, inside of it, that make it all come together,” Moore said.
Recently, The Ugly Co. received $9 million in its goal to recycle edible fruit not fit for store shelves, including funds from music artist Justin Timberlake. The funding was led by Reedley-based fruit grower and distributor Sun Valley Packing as well as Value Creation Strategies, a family office investment firm based in Texas. Timberlake, along with Valley Ag Capital Holdings, made contributions to the company as well.
According to Moore, the company received the attention it did from Justin Timberlake because Moore met someone who knows Timberlake and built a companionship with him over the years. Moore said they were looking at using a marketing agency they used in the past. After he sent them over some fruit and informed them of the company’s goal, he said they really liked the concept and product.
“From what I can tell from what I sent, the cherries are their favorite,” Moore said.