Hazelnut Growers of Oregon Awarded SQF Level 3 Fourth Year in a Row at Its State-of-the-art Processing Facility

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New HGO President Gerry Watts said the hazelnut cooperative is poised for continued growth and innovation. Continued SQF3 recertification is a beacon of quality assurance in a current climate of food safety uncertainty.  

Hazelnut Growers of Oregon (HGO), a business unit of farmer-owned cooperative Wilco Hazelnut LLC, has received a SQF (Safe Quality Food) Level 3 (SQF3) certification for the fourth year in a row! HGO has earned the top-ranking food safety award every year since it opened its 120,000-square-foot hazelnut processing facility, and the specific score it received this year was its highest ever. This is great news for HGO’s more than 200 growers who collectively own more than 20,000 acres of prime hazelnut orchards. 

SQF Level 3, with criteria influenced by the Food Safety Modernization Act and the recent increase in global food contamination events, is the highest rating of Food Safety a Food Manufacturer can receive. The increased stringency of the SQF has made achieving a Level 3 rating extremely difficult according to Mark Clute, plant Technical Services Manager. The HGO team makes a commitment every day to protect the Oregon Orchard brand as well as all of the customers’ brands and this commitment is evidenced through the continued achievement of SQF3 certification.

HGO President Gerry Watts noted he was impressed with how, year after year, the HGO team continues to meet the SQF3 standards. “This accomplishment of meeting SQF3 for four years running speaks volumes about our team,” he said. “They are very knowledgeable about the modern quality control protocols and processes required for operating a food manufacturing operation such as this. We are changing the dynamics of the Hazelnut Industry with our focus on quality and competing in our US national market as a supplier of Specialty Retail, Foodservice, and Ingredient products.”

Following strict SQF3 guidelines, the processing plant segregates pasteurized and unpasteurized products; uses color codes to clearly identify each station; ensures rules are followed depending on where and who you are in the warehouse, down to the color of smock worn by visitors; features a clean-room design and marked walk paths; and uses dry cleaning and positive air pressure systems in order to offer the highest level of sanitation.

About Hazelnut Growers of Oregon

Founded in 1984, Hazelnut Growers of Oregon, a business unit of farmer-owned cooperative Wilco, has more than 180 growers who collectively own more than 20,000 acres of prime hazelnut orchards. Oregon’s Willamette Valley has the ideal climate for growing the world’s highest quality hazelnuts.

In 2016, Hazelnut Growers of Oregon merged with Wilco and by 2018 completed its 120,000 square-foot state-of-the-art hazelnut process facility in Aurora, Oregon. HGO processes a variety of hazelnut products, including in-shell, kernels, oils, butters, and baking ingredients for food service supply companies, confectionaries, snack food makers, and bakers around the globe. The new processing plant also has 30,000 square feet of storage space. The Oregon hazelnut industry is expected to double in the next five years. 

For more information visit https://www.wilco.coop/hazelnuts/.

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