Nurturing Sustainability: Our Upcycling Journey at Sunrise Fresh

by Case Samuel, CSO, Sunrise Fresh Dried Fruit


Our Roots in Upcycling

Upcycling has been at the forefront of Sunrise Fresh since its early days. My grandfather, Ernie Podesta, and father, Jim Samuel, initiated this journey with a simple yet innovative idea: to ensure no cherry was wasted. They began drying cherries on a screen door in 1996. Today, our operations have expanded significantly, drying over 30 million lbs. of cherries annually. This growth is a testament to the enduring passion for agriculture and a commitment to sustainability that runs deep in our family.

The Challenge with Stone Fruits

One of the most significant challenges in our industry is the limited shelf life of stone fruits like cherries. To address this, my father innovated a unique method for drying and processing. At our facility, Sunrise Dryers, we boast 72 forced-air drying tunnels, which positions us as the largest manufacturer of unsweetened dried cherries in the U.S. This development is not just about scale; it's about redefining the potential of stone fruits beyond their traditional market. 

Harvesting: A Blend of Art and Science

Harvesting cherries at Sunrise Fresh is a meticulous process, harmonizing with nature's timing. The cherries, after about 90 days of careful nurturing, are handpicked and processed. Our goal is to transition these cherries from harvest to drying within 24-48 hours. We take pride in using fresh, American-grown, California and Western U.S. fruit, ensuring the ultimate freshness in our products.

Embracing Every Fruit

Our perspective on fruits that do not conform to conventional market standards is rooted in respect and understanding. These fruits are not 'misfits' in our eyes but vital contributors to our upcycling efforts. By utilizing these fruits, we are not just minimizing waste but also celebrating the diversity of nature's produce.

Leading the Upcycled Foods Movement

Our role in the Upcycled Foods Association stems from a desire to be at the forefront of this industry. It's about setting a standard and guiding the movement towards sustainable and impactful practices in food production.

The Importance of Upcycled Certification

The process of obtaining upcycled certification, overseen by Where Food Comes From, is an essential part of our journey. This certification is more than a label; it's a commitment to authenticity and sustainability. Even though the term 'upcycled' was coined long after our inception, it resonates deeply with our core values and practices.



At Sunrise Fresh, upcycling is more than a methodology; it's a philosophy that guides our actions and decisions. From selecting our fruits to our unique drying techniques, every step we take is geared towards maximizing value and minimizing environmental impact. As we continue to innovate and lead in sustainable food production, our commitment to upcycling remains unwavering.Thanks to our Team, our Customers, Suppliers and the Upcycled Food Association for supporting this continued effort!