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Lathrop honors California Natural founder
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A rendering of the recent Lathrop plant expansion. - photo by Image Contributed

Pat Mitchell started California Natural Products with only two employees in 1980.

And after three decades of innovating in ways to deliver high-quality food product ingredients to a growing industry, Mitchell’s company – which has grown to more than 400 workers – shows no sign of slowing down.

On Monday the Lathrop City Council honored him for both his entrepreneurial spirit and his dedication to a community that he says has been a major part of his company over the years.

The standing ovation and the framed declaration and the kind words, he said, meant a lot from the people that he respected and from a community that he holds near-and-dear.

“It was very heartfelt for me – my very first business was here in Lathrop when I was only seven-years-old,” Mitchell said after walking outside of the council chambers to a waiting line of clapping staffers. “When we first started here it was kind of a disjointed community and there wasn’t really what most people think of when look at the town today. So in a sense we both kind of grew up together.

“And the city has made it easy to be here. We’ve had some disagreements over the years but they’ve always been reasonable and we’ve always worked matters out.”

Located on McKinley Avenue near its intersection with Lathrop Road, California Natural Products has a sterling reputation for manufacturing not only rice-based food products – rice syrups, rice syrups, rice milk – but also soy-based products that are becoming more popular in an increasingly health-conscious world.

And the company itself has branched out beyond what it cut its teeth on.

After coming up with a state-of-the-art system that revolutionizes the warehousing process, the company’s subsidiary – Power Automation Systems – began picking up contracts throughout Northern California.

Just recently it was announced that the $300 million Trinchero Winery expansion in Lodi will utilize Power Automation Systems to sort, warehouse and ship cases of wine all over the world.

Former Mayor and longtime local figure Bennie Gatto had kind words for his old friend when he came up to the lectern to offer something beyond what the city had for him, and followed him outside for a tender moment.

“He’s a success story for Lathrop and for the world,” Gatto said. “Anybody who knows him for as I’ve known him knows that he’s become the entrepreneur that he should be. He deserves this, and that Lathrop’s happy to have him.”