Pick up a bag of dried apples from local company Bella Viva Orchards and the ingredient label will have one item: apples.
In a day where it can seem nearly impossible to find a ready to eat snack that is unprocessed or free of additives unless you pluck a piece of fruit from a tree, Bella Viva Orchards is revolutionizing the concept of “fast food” with its Pure and Natural line of dried fruits.
Bella Viva Orchards fruit drying facility is located in Denair, where the company uses unique methods to dry produce sourced from the Central Valley and around the state. In an industry where it is common to find additives in dried fruit products, such as sulfur dioxide, Bella Viva prides itself on being a company that maintains the integrity of the color, flavor and texture of the original fruit — sans chemicals.
“Victor loved dried fruit growing up, he thought it was like candy,” explained sales representative Brean Bettencourt of Victor and Angela Martino, the founders of Bella Viva Orchards. “He started to dry fruit to take it to Bay Area farmers markets to sell. He started to make more and Angela got in on the business side to sell more and the company just grew.”
Bella Viva Orchards has since expanded from Victor Martino's days of selling at farmers markets and now ships internationally to Australia, New Zealand, Israel, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Mongolia, Korea, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Poland. With clients including TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Marshalls and more, Bella Viva also has a competitive online presence where people across the globe can order locally dried fruits. Individuals can also enjoy Bella Viva products by picking up their own packages at the company’s retail space in downtown Hughson or consumers may already be unknowingly enjoying the fruit in other products as the company sells wholesale as well.
In recent years Bella Viva has grown in large part due to exposure gained through the Fresno Food Expo, an annual event unique to the San Joaquin Valley that allows local companies to showcase new products and network with industry leaders. At the Expo, products are evaluated by five judges based on their marketability, presentation, packing, innovation and creativity. After submitting dried persimmons, peaches, pears and oranges of the Pure and Natural line at the 2013 Expo, Bella Viva was awarded the “Industry Award”, a tribute to the company’s innovation.
“The Fresno Food Expo provided an opportunity to build an awareness of our products in the San Joaquin Valley, helping to drive consumer demand, as well as connect us with new buyers who didn’t have us on their radar,” explained Bettencourt.
Bella Viva Orchards success at the Expo was also a credit to the company’s innovative spirit and boosted sales domestically as well as internationally. Since many countries have low tolerance for importing sulfites, which are commonly found in dried fruit, Bella Viva’s ability to bypass these laws sets them apart in the industry and events like the Expo serve to increase exposure and foster domestic and international relationships.
"Our success at the Fresno Food Expo qualified us as an innovative food manufacturer, not just in the region or the state but I think worldwide. Our product benefits a lot of markets and countries," explained Bettencourt.
This year, Bella Viva will be submitting another product of the Pure and Natural line to the Fresno Food Expo: Dried Apple Slices. With no preservatives or additives, the apple rings are 100 percent natural and an easy on-the-go snack for all ages. Bella Viva's Dried Apple Slices will be evaluated alongside hundreds of other products on July 24 the Fresno Food Expo.