2016-12-01 / Local News

Manistee tribe buys Pleva-based lines emphasizing cherries

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


RAY PLEVA of Cedar has sold his food and nutraceutical business to the Manistee-based Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. RAY PLEVA of Cedar has sold his food and nutraceutical business to the Manistee-based Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. One of Leelanau County’s most innovative businessmen has sold his business, “Pleva International, Inc.,” to the Manistee-based Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

And soon his signature meat product, “Plevalean,” may be offered at a grocery store near you.

Ray Pleva, 74, is best known locally for the meat products he produced for many years at Pleva’s Meats in Cedar. His Plevalean added red tart cherries to ground meats, reducing fat content while improving shelf life, nutrition and juiciness.

Pleva sold his meat market in Cedar to his cousin Tom years ago. Since then, he’s been focused on much more than meat.

On his own initiative, Pleva underwrote a number of efforts to encourage scientific study of the health benefits of red tart cherries.


TIRELESSLY PROMOTING the use of cherries in meat products and nutraceuticals has been Ray Pleva’s passion for many years. TIRELESSLY PROMOTING the use of cherries in meat products and nutraceuticals has been Ray Pleva’s passion for many years. He developed more than 90 different formulations of various kinds of meats that included cherries, and produced other cherry products including marinades and snack items.

He then established two new companies, Pleva Products, Inc., and Cerise Nutraceuticals.

Cerise Nutraceuticals produced capsules containing cherry compounds that Pleva claimed were 48 times more potent than raw cherries. Pleva Products, Inc., continued to focus on meat enhancement products that were used in a variety of areas, gaining the attention of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I know there were a lot of people in the cherry industry who thought I was just some Polish guy from Cedar who was drinking too much cherry juice,” Pleva said. “But when you’re the only company with cherry-enhanced products in Michigan, and you’re the lead dog, you’ve got to get out there and tell the story.”

Officials of the Little River Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians definitely heard that story. Earlier this year the tribe agreed to purchase all of Pleva’s businesses under the umbrella of Pleva International, Inc. They closed on the deal for an undisclosed amount earlier this fall in Manistee.

The tribe has been seeking to diversify its business holdings beyond casino gaming for many years. A statement released by tribal officials noted that Pleva International “shares our philosophy for respecting nature and utilizing its power in products that give back to the world.”

According to tribal officials, the “30- year legacy of Ray Pleva’s work established a solid foundation of documented scientific research from which the tribe will launch the vast array of natural products into the marketplace.”

Tribal officials noted that Pleva International could have been more successful with enough capital to support a staff with expertise in sales, marketing and strategic planning – something the tribe plans to bring to the table.

Pleva said his deal with the tribe will keep him employed as a consultant for the next 10 years. In addition, Pleva’s daughter, Cindy Pleva-Weber, will continue to serve as president of the company under its new tribal ownership.

Pleva International, Pleva’s Products, and Cerise Nutraceuticals, had been operating for the past several years from space rented in the Centerpointe Building on S. West Bay Shore Drive in Elmwood Township. Pleva said the company has since relocated to Garfield Township in Grand Traverse County, and his daughter is now commuting to Manistee to consult with the business’s new owners.

Pleva credited his daughter, the 1987 National Cherry Queen, with carrying on his legacy. He noted, too, the contributions of his wife, Marge, who helped create so many cherry products in her own kitchen.

According to tribal officials, the tribe’s new company will continue Pleva’s efforts to promote the product formerly known as “Plevalean,” which mixes red tart cherries with beef.

“The most popular blend is in hamburgers – a regular menu item for this company since 1988 in school food service and soon to be available to the mass market,” according to a tribal news release. Ground beef revenue could “potentially exceed $15 million,” tribal officials said.

“In acquiring Cerise Nutraceuticals, we will further utilize tart cherries as our basis in nutritional supplements, and as a concentrated liquid or powder,” tribal officials said. The global nutraceutical market is expected to reach $204.8 billion by 2017, they added.

“Currently, the companies are in the process of identifying new names as well as developing an aggressive marketing campaign to strategically re-brand and launch these products into the national marketplace,” tribal officials said.

“Through this acquisition, we will continue to grow our portfolio of exciting and relevant opportunities for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.”

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