Blueberries: Cream of the Crop

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At 5:00 am each morning between June and September Sorbatto CEO Jeff Weijohn can be found working the fields of his Wapato, Washington farm.

This is harvest time for Mr. Weijohn’s blueberries, the base ingredient of the company’s product line. With more than a pint of blueberries in each pint of his Sorbatto, Mr. Weijohn dons his farmer’s cap to ensure that the fourth-generation family farm is producing only the most beautiful blueberries for his high-end frozen desserts. It helps that his farm in Eastern Washington State receives a lot of sunlight which sweetens berries. The dry climate also requires little in the way of spray requirements; mildew, for instance, is less likely to rear its head in such environments.

Blueberries Grown on the Weijohn Farm Are Super Sweet

Sorbatto got its name from its sorbet and gelato-like qualities; however, it doesn’t contain the water of sorbet or the cream of gelato. Sorbatto may also be compared to ice cream, as both have a creamy texture, but Sorbatto’s unique blueberry creaming process consists of no milk or fat and a fraction of the sugars of ice cream.

The health benefits of this natural product are numerous and further separate Sorbatto from its frozen dessert cousins. The high fiber and low-calorie qualities of the “King of Antioxidant Foods,” blueberries, have well-documented reductive effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, and glycemic levels. Further, Sorbatto uses natural, non-GMO-certified and plant based-certified fruit.

Simplicity is another asset for this uniquely healthy frozen product. At least 90% of each pint contains exclusively whole fruit. Competing products may taste good, but a check of their packages may show 15% fruit content with the remainder a fruit syrup. The ingredients of Sorbatto are simple and recognizable. The “Lemon Frosty Blue” has only 3 elements: blueberries, organic cane sugar and organic lemons. The rest of the current six-product line contains at most five ingredients.

Absence of common allergens is another significant health benefit. No dairy, eggs, gluten, wheat, tree nuts of any kind, or soy are found in Sorbatto; only two of the products contain citrus.

As in most endeavors, Sorbatto’s success was far from overnight. Ten years ago Mr. Weijohn opened up a stand at the family farm; the soft serve machine became a sensation in Central Washington. Developing the basic recipe that is now found in Sorbatto’s pints was a six-year process.

Whole Foods in Seattle was the first brick and mortar retailer to sell Sorbatto. At present, pints are on shelves in stores throughout the Pacific Northwest, including in 86 Target stores. Mr. Weijohn commented that the company has faced challenges expanding its Canadian and California markets, where it has only limited market presence.

Vice-President of Development Terri Weijohn, Jeff’s wife, stated that the company has devoted some recent research and development to tart cherries, but she adds that they are not quite ready.

“We very carefully source our fruit,” Terri said. “If the fruit tastes good, our product tastes good.” The Weijohn family is cultivating more than blueberries and tart cherries. The fourth Weijohn generation is being taught the nuances of the family business’s growing, packing, manufacturing and nursery management.

David Liepman
July 26, 2020

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