Page 130 - December2018
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Look To Future Helped Build Tropical Nut & Fruit
In 1977, Jerry York founded Tropical Nut & Fruit in Charlotte, NC. He and his wife, Bet- ty York, built the company and took a lot
of pride in their products. Though Jerry York had worked 20 years in the nut business before starting the company, he frequently credited Betty for the company’s success.
Hard work and family-oriented dedi- cation are how snack food manufacturer Tropical Nut & Fruit, which markets nuts and trail mixes, achieved its success. The com- pany, also known as Tropical Foods, also distributes candy and confections, energy bars, baking ingredients and granolas. A Korean War Army veteran, Jerry died at age 87 in 2017.
The photo, from a 1983 Charlotte Ob- server news article, shows Jerry and Betty York inspecting the quality of the nuts being mixed. The company has long carried higher grades and sizes of nuts vs. using cheap  llers. That was how Jerry purchased nuts 35 years ago and is the way his two daughters, who run the company, buy today.
In 1993, daughter Carolyn Bennett, co-owner, became president. In 2005, Ben- nett and sister Angela Bauer, chief executive of cer, became majority owners. The sisters run the company with John Bauer, chief op- erating of cer and Angela Bauer’s husband.
In the background of the photo, one can see how Tropical Nut & Fruit was us- ing the latest equipment, working to be on the forefront of modernization. Quality was important, but personal touch also was critical. Though bulk was big business in the 1970s and 1980s, the second-generation, family-owned business has since moved into packaged product only over the last half of its history.
At  rst, Jerry and Betty’s goals were to make a house payment and send their four children to college. Today, Tropical Nut & Fruit provides a living for hundreds of employees’ families through its Charlotte, Atlanta, GA, Dallas, TX, Memphis, TN, and Washington, DC, sales of ces and distribu- tion centers and Charlotte and Orlando, FL, manufacturing facilities.
At the production operations, workers roast nuts and seeds for 60 different blends of trail mixes, and they manufacture and distribute more than 3,000 items in Tropical Nut & Fruit’s product portfolio.
Constant changing and developing new products to meet consumer demands are critical. To remain a category leader, in- novation is required. “Every time you turn around, there is a new package that is pop- ular or a new fruit or vegetable that has gone mainstream,” says Angela Bauer. “To continue to be a leader, you have to innovate and answer the call of the consumer.”
The operation’s most persistent strug- gle has been dealing with the challenge of commodity pricing, particularly as prices escalate and drop. Consumer perception of nuts and trail mixes has changed over the decades. Tropical Nut & Fruit has always worked to get past and adapt to trendy and seasonal and build a product line that will sell for the long haul.
“To be around for as long as Tropical Foods has, you have to stay true to your mission and vision while evolving like cra- zy,” says Bauer. “We have basically sold the same product (nuts) for 40 years, but at the same time, the same product changes. Bulk to packaged product and the de nition of healthy have both been major shifts in our products and industry.”

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