Dried and Dehydrated Fruits, Vegetables and Soup Mixes

SIC 2034

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in sun drying or artificially dehydrating fruits and vegetables, or in manufacturing packaged soup mixes from dehydrated ingredients. Establishments primarily engaged in the grading and marketing of farm dried fruits, such as dried plums and raisins, are classified in SIC 5149: Groceries and Related Products, Not Elsewhere Classified.

The dried and dehydrated fruits, vegetables, and soups industry segment generated total annual sales of $945 million, according to a 2010 Dun & Bradstreet industry report. According to U.S. Census data, dried and dehydrated fruits and vegetables made up nearly two-thirds of the total value of shipments, while soup mixes accounted for the remaining one-third. While the most popular dried products have typically been raisins and dried plums (formerly called prunes), during the first decade of the 2000s, other dried fruits such as dried cranberries, dates, and apples grew in popularity.

The U.S. dried fruit industry exported much of its goods. During the late 2000s, approximately 30 percent of all U.S. dried fruit was exported. Specifically, 41 percent of all U.S. processed raisins were exported. In addition, 39 percent of prunes and 23 percent of dates were exported. Top destinations for U.S. dried fruit included Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and South Korea.

Although the United States ships a good portion of its dried fruit across its borders, the United States also depends for imports a portion of its consumption needs. In fact, both imports and import dependence grew during the 2000s. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, between 1996 and 1998, the United States depended on imports for approximately 13 percent of its consumption needs. Between 2006 and 2008, that amount had grown to roughly 22 percent.

Sun drying, one of the oldest known methods of fruit preservation, originated thousands of years ago. Dehydration preserved foods by removing the moisture needed by microorganisms to thrive. Although the technique continued in the 1990s, mechanical drying methods began to increase in the late nineteenth century. Besides preservation, reduction in bulk and weight were considerations in the drying of fruits and vegetables.

As consumers took increased interest in healthy eating during the 1990s, processors of dates, raisins, dried apricots, apples, cherries, and other fruits promoted their products as nutritious snacks, as well as ingredients for home baking and cooking.

Processors used dried fruits in a wide variety of food products. Dates, which were also popular with retail shoppers, added texture, flavor, and sweetness to processed cereals, baked goods, snack bars, and frozen desserts. Raisins also were used in a variety of ways in food processing. Products introduced in the 1990s included donuts with raisins, fat-free raisin cookies and fruit bars, and even raisin salami. Dried cranberries were also gaining popularity among U.S. consumers.

Sophisticated processing technology was introduced, including quality-monitoring computer programs and lasers. Innovative dehydration processes, such as a three-stage vegetable dehydrator employed by Breedlove Dehydration Foods of Lubbock, Texas, were used to save surplus food for later distribution to a national network of food banks that fed the homeless.

While imports of raisins declined nearly nine percent in 2003 to 24.5 million pounds, imports of dried apples grew 43 percent to 8.4 million pounds, and imports of dates grew 41 percent to 9.3 million pounds. According to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc., the total dried fruit category increased 10.4 percent from April 2005 through April 2006, and sales for private label or store brand dried fruit products increased 22.2 percent over the same period. Considerable growth was reported for raisins and trail mixes in the private label category with 18.2 percent and 71 percent increases, respectively.

Current Conditions

In 2010, an estimated 294 establishments were primarily engaged in sun drying or artificially dehydrating fruits and vegetables, or in manufacturing packaged soup mixes from dehydrated ingredients, with combined annual sales of $945.2 million and 11,294 employees. The dried and dehydrated fruits, vegetables, and soup mixes category represented 35 percent of market share, valued at $85.7 million (nine percent of revenues). Twenty-one firms made up the dried and dehydrated fruits category. These firms accounted for seven percent of the market share but, with $297.2 million in revenues, generated over 31 percent of industry revenues. Dried and dehydrated potatoes made up almost eight percent of the market share with 23 firms and generated $152.7 million in revenues (16 percent). The dried and dehydrated vegetables categories had 11 firms (four percent market share) and generated $122.7 million (13 percent). Forty-five firms made up the raisins category. Although the raisin sector accounted for over 15 percent of all firms, this category only generated $28.3 million (three percent).

All categories of soup mixes had combined total revenues of $112.6 million. The largest category was soup mixes, which had 17 firms (six percent of all industry firms), employed 411, and generated $68.7 million (seven percent of industry total). The dried and dehydrated soup mixes sector had 14 firms (five percent), employed 435, and generated $31.5 million (three percent). Soup powders and dehydrated soups made up much smaller sectors.

Despite the recession during the late 2000s that slowed the entire U.S. economy, the outlook for the dried fruit industry was good moving into the 2010s. Health-conscious Americans were choosing more products that contained dried fruits. For example, in July 2010, California's date crop was projected to double over the next few years to meet growing demand.

Industry Leaders

Most establishments in this industry were in California (36 percent), followed by Illinois (six percent), Florida (five percent), and Pennsylvania (five percent). Dole Food Company, Inc., and Blue Diamond Growers, both in California and highly-diversified, were industry leaders. In 2009, Dole reported sales of $6.78 million and 75,600 employees. In 2008, Blue Diamond Growers reported sales of $709 million and 1,100 employees.

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