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French applesauce makers ready production at Lancaster County facility

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Officials with French applesauce maker Charles & Alice Group are finalizing production lines for its sugar-free applesauce products at its East Hempfield Township facility in Lancaster County.

Thierry Goubault, chief executive officer of Charles & Alice, is visiting this week to oversee the project. The company announced plans in April to make a vacant food-processing plant at 2870 Yellow Goose Road its first American facility.

Goubault said the company has hired about 10 people so far and plans to start full production in the fall, which could mean up to 50 employees. The area was specifically selected for its fresh apples, major roads, location and available employees, he added. The 55,000-square-foot site is the right size for now and for future growth, he said.

“It’s a perfect location in what I call the heart of Northeast America," he said. "At the end of the day, apart from the location, we were feeling very comfortable and welcome, which is always an important factor when you go into a foreign country.”

The Charles & Alice deal resulted in a $1.57 million package of grants, tax credits and a low-interest loan from the state. All total, the company is investing about $10 million here, Goubault said.

“It could be more if the market success is even better than we expect," he added.

Charles & Alice is marketing its applesauce products as a healthy alternative for children. Its products do not include any sugar, artificial flavors or artificial colors. The company will produce squeezable fruit in pouches under the Fruit Friends label.

"It’s a very healthy and convenient way to eat fruit,” Goubault said.

The U.S. distribution process is more complicated than in France, he added, but the company is in talks with grocery stores and plans to sell its products beyond Pennsylvania.

"We are convinced we have a good product, a unique product," Goubault said.

Charles & Alice will work with Lancaster-based distributor Hess Brother’s Fruit Company as the apple supplier for its products.

Charles & Alice is headquartered in Allex, France, and is one of the leading manufacturers of apple sauce in Europe, the state said in a news release.

In 2000, Charles & Alice launched in France the first range of applesauces with no added sugar. The company has been exporting to the U.S. market since 2008. Equistone Partners Europe has a majority stake in Charles & Alice.

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