Sowing Seeds of Success

Grocery Headquarters honors the produce companies cultivating the ground today, thus ensuring a bright future for tomorrow.
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From the farmers in the field planting and harvesting to the research and development done behind the scenes,to the care that goes into packing and shipping to the marketing team on the forefront—a lot more goes into getting that cucumber on the shelf than meets the eye. 

Each year, Grocery Headquarters recognizes the hard work, vision and commitment put in by the country’s most notable growers, packers and distributors of fresh produce. 

Winners of Grocery Headquarters’ 2016 Produce Trailblazer Awards have flourished both at the farm and on the shelves. In the end, the winners are companies that consumers can purchase from with confidence, and retailers should feel proud to work with.

This year’s award was handed out in five prestigious categories: Beverages, Dips and Dressings; Fresh Fruits; Fresh Vegetables; Value-added; and Organic. Grocery Headquarters is proud to present its 2016 Produce Trailblazer Award winners: 

 

Beverages, Dips and Dressings

 

 

   Litehouse

Litehouse separates itself from the competition by offering four differentiated brands, designed to satisfy a wide range of consumers. “With these four great dressing lines, it is clear that at Litehouse there is something for everyone,” says Camille Balfanz, brand manager for the company, based in Sandpoint, Idaho. 

The Litehouse brand includes traditional dressing flavors like Chunk Blue Cheese and Ranch, as well as innovative varieties like Avocado Ranch with Bacon and Pear Gorgonzola. 

To meet consumer demand, the company also offers its Organic line of pourable dressings for the shopper focused on health claims like USDA certified organic or Non-GMO Project Verified. 

The OPA by Litehouse brand uses a Greek yogurt base, and is designed for consumers looking for big flavor and less calories. Company officials describe the OPA by Litehouse brand’s offerings as traditional with a twist—like Jalapeno Ranch and Feta Dill. Five new flavors were launched in pourable jars at the beginning of this year, including Strawberry Poppyseed, Tzatziki Ranch and Roasted Garlic. 

For the consumer seeking simple ingredients, Litehouse has its Green Garden Organic Dressing line, offered in varieties like Orange Miso and Lime Cumin. This line is Non-GMO Project Verified, USDA certified organic- and gluten-free. 

To capitalize on consumers’ desire for Litehouse’s Blue Cheese dressing, the company ran its Dip it, Dunk it, Wing it promotion for Q1 during football playoff season. “Retailers promoted Litehouse Blue Cheese Dressing alongside wings at the time of year that wings sell most—the end of football season,” Balfanz says. “This promotion targeted the last two weeks of January and was supported by an FSI, in-store POS and a digital campaign where consumers would vote for their favorite wing dip—ranch or blue cheese.” 

During this time, retailers cross-merchandised the Blue Cheese in the deli section with wings, as well as in the refrigerated dips section. Officials add that Litehouse Blue Cheese sales increased by 25 percent during the promotion period. 

 

   Wholly Guacamole

Wholly Guacamole is a household brand name and certainly a success story. What started as a dip for a chain of Mexican restaurants in the late 1980s is now the No. 1 selling brand of refrigerated guacamole in the U.S.

Company officials note that Wholly Guacamole was the first to introduce guacamole minis for the on-the-go and snacking markets. As the company continues to grow, the Orange, Calif.-based brand of Saginaw, Texas-based Fresherized Foods continues to evolve its portfolio to meet the changing needs of consumers. 

“Our products utilize HPP (high pressure processing) technology so we don’t have to use any preservatives or additives,” says Nikki Frisz, brand manager for Wholly Guacamole.

This spring, the company plans to add three flavors to its lineup: Sriracha, Chipotle Lime and Margarita. 

Wholly Guacamole also stands out for the success of its marketing campaigns. Each year, it runs a Homegating program during the football season that includes its own website and everything from in-store activities, FSI drops and digital support via social media and posting favorite recipes. “The duration and comprehensiveness of this program make it truly unique and special for our brand and our retail partners,” adds Frisz. 

 

 

Fresh Fruits

 

   Avocados From Mexico

Since 2013 Avocados From Mexico (AFM) has served as the marketing arm for the two organizations that represent AFM in the U.S., the Mexican Hass Avocados Importers Association (MHAIA) and The Association of Growers and Packers of Avocados From Mexico (APEAM). 

According to officials for the Irving, Texas-based organization, U.S. demand for avocados has more than doubled in the past 10 years. Avocados From Mexico are available year-round and are the No. 1 selling avocado in the U.S., add officials.  

“The four-pronged marketing approach of AFM focuses on engaging audiences in each of its four business segments: general market, Hispanic market, food service and retail, with customized strategies, programs and tactics to address the unique needs of each of these segments,” says Alvaro Luque, president. 

Avocados From Mexico continually innovates to keep interest in the category high. The most recent example is the launch of Avolifestyle, a digital campaign that offers consumers engaging lifestyle content regarding nutrition and fitness, as well as interactive tools. The main hub on avocadosfrommexico.com provides both educational and motivational content. It also offers MyAvoPlan, a meal-planning tool that works in conjunction with the MyPlate program. 

Through a partnership with Under Armour, AFM was able to integrate with the MyFitnessPal app and reach 150 million consumers in the process. “Everything about AvoLifestyle is meant to organically drive consumption of avocados. The various tools and recipes help avocados become an indispensable part of the user’s lifestyle,” Luque adds. 

AFM is a founding supporter of the Partnership for a Healthier America’s FNV campaign. It is also a part of the Produce Marketing Association’s eat brighter! movement, which utilizes Sesame Street characters to attract families to a well-balanced diet. 

 

   New York Apple Association

The New York Apple Association’s (NYAA) Apple Marketing Order was charted in 1959 to promote New York State apples and apple products. Its goal is to expand markets and increase consumer awareness of New York apples and its products. 

“Our objective is to promote and advertise New York apples and apple products. We focus on fresh apples, processed apples and apple beverages such as sweet and hard cider. We include apple sauce, apple slices and dried apples, along with the more than 25 different apple varieties that consumers purchase,” says James S. Allen, president and CEO of the not-for-profit NYAA. 

In the same way the NYAA works to spread the word about New York apples outside of its community, it works hard to serve the people within its community in various ways. The NYAA is a supporter of the New York City Marathon as well as many youth races each year in the New York metro area, and sponsor of the NYC Five Boro Bike Tour. The Fishers, N.Y.-based organization supplies fresh apples to both runners and bikers.

Yearly, the NYAA donates $25,000 to pediatric cancer research in the name of New York apple growers. Each year it supports Jewish soup kitchens to help provide Passover baskets in the spring, and each Christmas it partners with a NYC-based online grocery delivery service to provide apples for charity gift baskets. 

Sustainability is also important to the family farmers represented by NYAA. “Sustainability to our growers is not a fad or a trend, but rather a way of life and a standard operational procedure,” Allen adds. “The land and the environment are our growers’ lifeblood, and they do not consider their practices to be short term or temporary. They protect their land and their future each day. Sustainability is forever in New York orchards.” 

 

   Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers

Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers has been providing shoppers with Northwest tree fruits since 1934. The company’s dedicated team of both seasoned and young professionals allows it to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the food industry.

“We have to continually think forward, plan accordingly and react to the needs of our customers and the consumer,” says Scott Marboe, director of marketing for the grower. “New varieties of apples, continuously updating our packing, growing and harvest techniques all make us who we are today as a company.” 

For example, expanding its growing area to New Zealand allowed the company to introduce the popular Honeycrisp apple to the U.S. marketplace. Oneonta continues to increase its organic offerings to meet the strengthened consumer demand for organic apples. The company also values sustainability.

Sustainable growing practices ensure a safe product that is the best in the long run, say officials for the Wenatchee, Wash.-based grower, adding that better watering systems have the ability to save millions of gallons of water. 

“Sustainable farming practices using the highest and most recognized food safety standards set by the industry are constantly adhered to and implemented. Seeing the future growth in this category is forefront on our minds,” Marboe adds.

 

   Wonderful Citrus

A part of The Wonderful Co., Wonderful Citrus is an integrated grower, shipper and packer of fresh citrus fruits, including mandarins, navel oranges, Valencia oranges, lemons, limes, Texas red grapefruit and more. The Delano, Calif.-based grower is the country’s largest when it comes to Wonderful Halos California mandarins, company officials say. 

“This season, we have more than two billion servings of fruit to sell through and we’re confident with the right mix of quality, California grown product, consumer awareness and engagement, we’ll continue as the No. 1 mandarin brand in the country for the third year in a row,” says David Krause, Wonderful Citrus’ president. 

Marketing helped the company spread the word about Halos, which achieved 81 percent brand awareness in just two seasons, according to officials. Tactics range from displays that interrupt the consumer at point of purchase to TV advertisements, public relations and digital campaigns, all of which aim to reach consumers at different points throughout the year. 

The company’s newest brand is Wonderful Sweet Scarletts Texas Red Grapefruit, which launched nationwide last year. The company also offers POS and displays for the Scarletts, in addition to high-graphic display-ready packaging to provide additional merchandising opportunities for the fruit. 

“What makes us unique is that we’re known for being the first to transform commodities, like mandarins and Texas Red Grapefruit, into healthy brands that consumers have come to know, love and trust,” adds Krause. “When consumers choose Wonderful Citrus brands, they know they’re enjoying a premium product that was cared for by us from tree to table.”

 

 

Fresh Vegetables

 

   Grimmway Farms

Best known for its extensive carrot production and innovation, Grimmway Farms offers more than 65 different vegetables. The company was founded when brothers Rod and Bob Grimm set up a roadside produce stand in Southern California in 1968, which eventually flourished into the supplier it is today. The company has continued to grow and diversify, and now includes a Cal-Organic division and line of premium juice under its TRUE Organic brand. 

The offerings in the Cal-Organic division range from kale and broccoli to beets and cabbage, cilantro and more. “As organic sales continue to show strong double-digit growth, we continue to expand production in order to meet the growing demand,” says Jennifer Hayslett, brand manager for the Bakersfield, Calif.-based company. “We are continuously looking for new ways to advance the technology of organic agriculture to provide our consumers with the finest quality organic produce.”

Grimmway also provides potatoes under the King Pak label. It is a seasonal program that provides early red, gold and white potatoes as early spring alternatives to storage potatoes. 

Its line of TRUE Organic juices was introduced in 2014 with six flavors. Four new veggie-heavy flavors were added in the fall of 2015: Kaleifornia, Blissful Beets, Apple Cherry Harvest and Citrus Carrot. All of the juices are made from authentic, natural and organic produce.

“As the size and scope of Grimmway grows, we continue to remain deeply committed to providing healthy products to the marketplace. We strive to be dedicated caretakers of the land and a dependable source for quality conventional and organic produce,” Hayslett adds.

 

   Hollandia Produce

Since the company’s inception in 1970, Hollandia Produce has grown to be the largest greenhouse grower of hydroponic lettuce in the Western U.S., say company officials. 

In February, Hollandia launched the latest addition to its Live Gourmet brand: Living Baby Romaine Lettuce. “Early feedback has been fantastic with several retailers expressing positive expectations for strong velocity,” says Renee Cooper, marketing manager. “Harvested with roots attached for longer lasting shelf-life and freshness, this ‘perfect portion’ sized head addresses consumers’ desire for less waste and more value per serving, while also meeting demands for more nutrient-dense leafy greens.” 

Hollandia offers its customers sustainable packaging for these products, in either a clamshell that is made from post-consumer recyclables or flow-wrap. Each of its packages also have code dates to ensure consumers receive a repeatable freshness experience. 

Additionally, in January, Hollandia transitioned from being family- to employee-owned, marking its greatest achievement to date, say officials for the Carpinteria, Calif.-based company. The Employee Stock Ownership Program is designed to drive increased productivity, profitability and increased stock price that the employees will benefit from. 

 

   Idaho Potato Commission

The popularity of the “Grown in Idaho” seal, known to symbolize quality, is a clear indicator of the success the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) has achieved throughout its tenure. 

Idaho farmers currently supply 30 percent of the nation’s fresh potatoes, and the IPC’s job is to market them so that consumers and retailers understand the differentiated quality that goes along with potatoes grown in Idaho. It does so through various promotions and community involvement throughout the year.

This year, the Big Idaho Potato Truck began its fifth annual tour in March. “We continue to take advantage of the super spud’s appeal to deliver ‘A Big Helping’ to charities in Idaho, as well as across the U.S.,” says Jamie Bowen, marketing manager for the Eagle, Idaho-based organization. “This charity provides groups with a unique opportunity to raise money and awareness for their causes in their local communities.”

The IPC works with selected charities to create events to raise awareness, funds and food. In the past few years the program has raised money for a public garden in Boise, Idaho; provided money to the parks department in Tennessee to build a wheelchair accessible ramp; and allowed the Tater Team to meet the world’s smallest boy, Jacob Walker, and donated to his Make-A-Wish fund to go to Disney World. Last year charities in 13 markets participated in the program, and the IPC’s efforts collected up to $500 for each charity. “This charitable aspect of the truck has not only been beneficial for the local Idaho community, but also for our national audience and consumers of Idaho potatoes,” Bowen adds. 

The IPC also promotes Idaho Potato awareness yearly with its Potato Lover’s Month Display Contest, now in its 25th year. The award is now $2,000 thanks to a recent increase. The program ran from mid-January to mid-March this year and attracted more than 5,000 retailer participants. To get even more potato lovers excited during a traditionally slow time of year, in 2016 the IPC expanded the contest to include partners Country Crock Original buttery spread and Hormel Real Bacon Bits.

 

   Prime Time International

Founded by four friends in 1991, today, Prime Time International is a premier provider of colored peppers. Fifteen years ago the founders realized that this segment was underserved, and represented an opportunity for growth. 

Now, Prime Time offers a year-round supply of red, yellow, green, orange and mini sweet peppers. All aspects of its growing, harvesting, packing and marketing processes that take place in California and Mexico are strictly controlled and monitored, say officials for the Coachella, Calif.-based company. Peppers are its signature product, but it also provides tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon and more.

“Prime Time now has excellent supplies of colored peppers available every day of the year to an impressive array of retail, foodservice and wholesale customers,” says Mike Way, managing member. “The consistency of supply, the uniform sizing and packing, the excellent quality, and the strict monitoring and enforcement guidelines for food handling and safety have enabled Prime Time to become the largest shipper of peppers in North America.”

To commemorate the company’s silver anniversary, it will hold a special giveaway this summer with the opportunity to win a pure silver Prime Time commemorative coin, from award certificates placed randomly in product cases.

“The winners will be listed at the end of the program and will demonstrate the depth of our programs and diversity of our customer base.  So the line cook in Atlanta, or the produce clerk in Seattle, will all have a chance to win,” Way adds.

 

 

Sustainability 

 

   Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A.

Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. is a distributor of fresh and fresh-cut fruit and vegetables. Products are marketed under the Del Monte brand, which has been seen as a symbol of product innovation, quality, freshness and reliability for more than 120 years, says Dionysios Christou, vice president, marketing.

Del Monte follows consumer trends and desires to best cater to their needs. This year, a main focus for the Coral Gables, Fla.-based company is on Hass avocado consumers. Del Monte offers programs for both conventional and organic Hass avocados in different packs. 

“Growth of avocado consumption over the past few years has been phenomenal. The nationwide focus on health and wellness has lead consumers to demand and expect healthier options wherever they shop or dine, and avocados are ideally positioned to address today’s consumer needs,” Christou says. “This product has become a staple for many consumers’ diets, particularly Millennials, who have more than $200 billion in annual buying power and the highest consumption of fruits and vegetables, according to the Hass Avocado Board 2015 Trend Report.”

In addition to monitoring trend activity, Del Monte looks toward the future with an eye for sustainable practices. It has established environmental and social policies that promote the well-being of employees and the communities in which it operates. These programs are regularly audited against internationally accepted standards. 

In the last year, Del Monte’s pineapple farms and canning operations in Kenya, banana farms in Guatemala and Costa Rica, and pineapple farm in Costa Rica all achieved Sustainably Grown certification by SCS Global Services. 

 

   Mann Packing Co.

Mann Packing Co. is a leader in both environmental sustainability and product innovation. The company prides itself on being a leading supplier of premium fresh vegetables.

“It’s a great honor for us to win back-to-back Grocery Headquarters Trailblazer Awards,” says Lorri Koster, chairman and CEO. “This award is another indication of the strong demand for innovative products and packaging in produce. This accolade is a real testament to our team’s hard work and ingenuity.”

Mann prides itself on its strong focus on sustainability, with a goal to protect and conserve natural resources. The company employs sustainability practices designed to maximize crop yield and limit waste. It uses custom harvesters that limit environmental impact with lower emissions and faster harvest times; reclaims wash waster into industrial waste systems; and recycles 90 percent of the water waste from its facilities. “We are as proud of our environmental record and programs as we are of our quality fresh vegetable products,” Koster adds.

In 2012, the company redesigned its packaging to remove the black plastic lids, and the newer trays have 38 percent less packaging material than the old, and 50 percent less than other trays on the market, add officials for the Salinas, Calif.-based company. This helps to reduce 1.4 million pounds of waste annually from landfills. 

“Sustainability and protecting our precious environment and valuable resources will continue to be top of mind at Mann’s throughout all of our operations in the future,” Koster says. 

 

   Peri & Sons Farms

More than 100 years ago, Italian immigrants crossed the Atlantic with the promise of opportunity on the opposing shores. David Peri, Peri & Sons’ president, says his grandfather and his great uncles came to the U.S. to farm a land of their own. Today, Peri & Sons Farms works to maintain the lasting legacy they left behind—one that is still growing—packing and shipping premium onions from its farm based in Yerington, Nev.

In 2016, the company became the first domestic onion farming operation to achieve the Sustainably Grown certification from SCS Global Services, say company officials, adding that the Sustainably Grown standards meet some of the world’s highest environmental, social and economic criteria. From the company’s inception, it has understood the importance of the health and well-being of the environment as it relates to business longevity. 

“We sell more than 350 million pounds each year, supplying the U.S. and many international markets year-round with onions shipped directly from our family farms in Yerington, Nev., and Firebaugh, Calif.,” says Teri Gibson, director, marketing and customer relations. “All of the onions we grow are either certified USDA organic or certified Pesticide Residue Free.”

Peri & Sons cares about its employees just as much as it does the environment. In 2013, the company added a family-friendly employee benefit by opening the “Little Bulbs” childcare center. It is located a few miles from its headquarters and provides high-quality, no-cost care for full-time employees’ pre-school aged children. 

“It’s been a rewarding experience, and providing this service is another way we can make our employees feel valued and appreciated,” says Gibson. “When people feel good about the place they work, their work reflects it. We are convinced that providing a trusted child-care environment for our employees reduces turnover and absenteeism, and increases productivity among workers. Helping workers raise their families instead of putting roadblocks in their way is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.” 

 

 

Value-Added

 

   Apio

A leader in fresh-cut, processed and packaged vegetables, Apio’s Eat Smart brand features gourmet salad kits, slaw side kits, vegetable party trays and bagged vegetables. 

“Our innovation team is inspired to be the market leader in providing unique, high-quality vegetable products,” says Anne Byerly, vice president of marketing and innovation for Apio. “With a focus on integrating the latest trends into everything we make, we have created inventive products that satisfy consumers’ desires for nutritious, convenient, and delicious meal options. Busy consumers also want quality and variety, so our team always has an eye on adding culinary appeal and flair.”

Eat Smart’s salad kits are innovative and thus popular amongst consumers. For example, the recently introduced Sweet Kale Vegetable Salad Kit quickly became the best-selling kale salad kit in the country, say officials for the Guadalupe, Calif.-based company. Other varieties in the line include Wild Greens and Quinoa, Beets and Greens and Southwest Vegetable. 

The most recent introduction is the Asian Sesame Vegetable Salad Kit. It is a combination of six superfoods: three kinds of cabbage, kale, carrots and cashews; topped with crunchy sesame sticks and a sesame dressing. “With sales of Asian salad kits growing 52 percent faster than the total salad kit category this salad is sure to be an instant hit with consumers,” Byerly adds. 

The company is also an important fixture in the communities in which it operates. Last year it announced a $22.5 million investment in its Hanover, Pa. location that will more than triple the size of the facility, to meet demand for products and add up to 200 jobs in the local community. 

 

   Love Beets

Since its launch in 2010, Love Beets has worked to defy the modern perception of beets. With fun branding and colorful packaging, company officials say that they work to make the vegetable appealing for all types of consumers.

The Love Beets line currently includes 17 SKUs of premium, all-natural, ready-to-eat beets. The products include beet juices, bars, snack packages, flavored baby beets and two pre-cooked options. Most of the products are gluten-free, and select options are USDA certified organic, kosher certified and Non-GMO Project Verified. 

“From our classic cooked beets to our wholesome and delicious organic beet juices, we are endlessly enthusiastic about the health benefits and downright tastiness of our favorite root veggie,” says George Shropshire, vice president of marketing for Love Beets. “Our lineup is unique because we eliminate the time consuming, laborious and messy prep work that’s commonly associated with beets—in short, we provide no-mess, no-fuss, just delicious beets—and beet juices, and beet bars, and our new Smoky Shredded BBQ Beets.”

To spread beets’ awareness, Love Beets runs various promotions, like its summer 2015 cross-promotion with Weber Grills called Beet Meets Grill: A Summer Love Story. The promotion used social media, in-store samples and worked with bloggers to showcase the root vegetable’s versatility through grilled beet recipes like Grilled Beet Sliders with Mango Salsa, among others. 

“We proved that beets aren’t just a warming winter veggie, they’re completely versatile and delicious any day of the year,” Shropshire says. Through the promotion, consumers voted for a favorite recipe to win one of 25 purple Love Beets-branded Weber Grills.

Sustainability is also important to the company, which has roots at its family farm in the U.K., U.S. headquarters in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., and is also starting production and growing in Rochester, N.Y. By sourcing beets from the U.S., the company is working toward a more sustainable supply chain. Shropshire adds that the new production facility will implement eco-friendly practices like composting.

 

   Ocean Mist Farms

Ocean Mist Farms, a fourth-generation grower-owned business, founded by Italian immigrants, is now one of the largest growers of fresh artichokes in North America. Its innovation in the value-added produce space has won the company awards, like with the popular Season & Steam line.

The Season & Steam line was first launched in 2012 with whole and multiple cuts of Brussels sprouts, including SuperShreds SuperFood, Quick Cook Sprouts, Whole Brussels sprouts and Baby Sprouts. In 2015, it expanded with Kalettes, and in 2016 artichokes will be added into the mix. 

“Ocean Mist Farms Season & Steam fresh vegetables are unique in that the package technology allows the user to open the bag prior to cooking, pre-season the contents to their flavor preference, reseal with the zip lock and steam by microwave all within the same bag,” says Diana McClean, director of marketing for the Castroville, Calif.-based company. “The ability to pre-season the fresh vegetable contents prior to cooking is an exclusive convenience attribute to the produce department.”

Ocean Mist’s deep roots in Monterey County ensure that the company works to give back to the community in which it does business. It is the largest sponsor of the annual Castroville Food & Wine Artichoke Festival, this year at the event it will award four $1,000 scholarships to high school graduates for the upcoming school year. 

 

 

Organics

 

   4Earth Farms

4Earth Farms was founded in 1993 out of a small warehouse near Los Angeles. Today, it is one of California’s largest produce suppliers. The company has more than 400 employees and operates from its 160,000-square foot facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We believe the success of our organic programs has been our ability to collaborate with our customers to customize each organic program to fit their unique needs,” says Mark Munger, vice president of sales and marketing for the Los Angeles-based company. “We focus on growing and delivering consistently high-quality produce and ensuring that we keep organics in stock and on the shelf. We have a portfolio of best practices that we share with our customers to help them improve their organic categories.”

The company is meeting the growing demand for organic through its Farm-To-Fork business approach. This consists of empowering growers to expand organic offerings by providing long-term commitments and supporting innovation through the sponsorship of new seed selection and growing techniques that have turned traditionally seasonal organic crops into year-round ones, Munger adds. 

Overall, 4Earth Farms offers 100 organic SKUs ranging from sugar snap peas to baby broccoli, kale and dozens more. To assist retailers, the company runs a value-added facility that packs and labels with earth-friendly materials. 

 

   Braga Fresh Family Farms

Braga Fresh Family Farms is continually growing its product portfolio under its Josie’s Organics label to include new items and reach more retail stores. 

A leader in the organic field, Braga Fresh Family Farms, based in Soledad, Calif., has been growing organically for more than 20 years. The company works to annually convert more than five percent of its conventional farmland to be able to grow organically. Additionally, the grower acquires land whenever possible to support the business’ growth. 

New products are also an important part of growing the company, according Rodney Braga, CEO. Braga Fresh is now starting to organically grow more products that at one point were only offered conventionally—like iceberg lettuce. At the beginning of 2016, the company added fennel, Easter egg radishes, leeks and dandelion greens to the Josie’s line, and expects to bring in more products in the near future. 

“The greens category continues to explode in part because of the increased demand from rapidly expanding Asian and Latin communities. Providing more heritage greens, like dandelion greens, allows Braga Fresh to satisfy a burgeoning market category.” Braga adds.

The company gives back to the surrounding community as well. Recently, as part of the Grower Shipper Association Foundation’s Produce in Schools Salad Bar program, Braga Fresh donated a salad bar to Soledad High School to promote increased vegetable consumption and healthy eating. “This effort was a way to give back to the community where the Braga family has been farming for three generations. Braga Fresh will be donating a salad bar to the middle school in the very near future,” says Braga.

 

   CMI

Owned by four family orchard and packing operations based in Washington state, CMI (Columbia Marketing International) has a strong 27 year legacy of quality branding. 

Nielsen data shows that CMI apples sell for 17 percent more than the apple category average, say officials for the Wenatchee, Wash.-based company. “CMI focuses on driving category growth by transforming price commodities into higher value brands,” says Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing. “While CMI offers a full line of the top selling apple and pear varieties, the organization focuses on helping retailers increase customer interactions and boost transaction size through top quality, innovative packaging and proprietary branded apples.”

The company is actively working to expand its supply of the organic Daisy Girl line. Currently, it accounts for nearly 20 percent of CMI apple production. Over the next five years CMI hopes to increase its production of organic apples, pears and cherries by 30 percent. To enhance sales last fall, CMI introduced a super-premium line of Daisy Girl branded apples featuring Ambrosia, KIKU, Kanzi and Rosa Lynn apples. 

“Daisy Girl has been an incredible retail success, driving up from introduction three years ago to eventually become the bestselling stand-alone organic apple brand in the U.S.,” Lutz adds.

CMI is committed to sustainability throughout its organization, warehouses and orchards. “Sustainability efforts are fully employed in both conventional and organic orchards,” Lutz says.  “As one of the largest organic growers in the state, CMI growers are committed to farming best practices for the long term.” 

 

   Organics Unlimited 

Officials from Organics Unlimited understand that not only does growing organic ensure that food is chemical-free and healthier, but also that it is a more sustainable way to maintain the growing land. 

“Through natural processes and without the addition of chemical products, the land can continue to be used to raise wholesome, delicious produce year after year without the threat of destroying nature’s balance,” says Mayra Velazquez de Leon, CEO. 

The company works to ensure the ecosystem will continue to thrive for future generations. Sustainability efforts include efficient use and management of water; maintaining weeds that help end erosion; protection of wildlife to maintain a biological equilibrium; and composting stalks and leaves harvested from bananas, among many other processes. 

Founded in 2000, Organics Unlimited has U.S. headquarters in San Diego, but grows its organic bananas in Mexico and South America. With more than 15 years of history, the company understands the challenges that come with organic farming. “It’s important that the quality of an organic product is just as good as or better than that of a conventional one or the customer won’t accept it. It must look and taste as good as conventional,” Velazquez de Leon says.

Currently, Organics Unlimited is working on a land expansion for its organic banana production, as the demand for organic produce continues to grow. The bananas are available taped, which come in bunches of five to seven, or two sizes of boxes, 38- and 40-pound. 

Also notable is Organics Unlimited’s social responsibility program called GROW. “We founded it on the principle of providing a better lifestyle for not only the workers who grow our produce, but also others in the Mexican and Ecuadorian communities who are often living in poverty,” says Velazquez de Leon. The GROW program helps provide educational, dental and vision support to people in the community. 

 

   Well•Pict Berries

Dedicated to superior service based on trust, dedication, ingenuity and meeting customer needs, Well•Pict Berries has been a provider of conventional berries since its inception in 1969—and now excels in the organic realm. 

“Both Well•Pict’s organic and conventionally produced lines of strawberries and raspberries are grown with an eye to responsible stewardship of the land, conservation of resources, and reduction in use of pesticides,” says Jim Grabowski, director of marketing. “As demand for organic produce grows, Well•Pict Berries is ready to meet that demand with fresh, nutritious premium berries that are known worldwide.”

Grabowski believes that the consumer focus on eating healthier has spurred the increased demand for organic produce. He adds that as today’s consumers pass along those habits, organic produce will become a permanent fixture in produce aisles. 

The sustainable farming methods employed by the Watsonville, Calif.-based company go hand-in-hand with its focus on organics. It has been using drip irrigation to conserve valuable water resources for years. Additionally, Well•Pict was a pioneer of Integrated Pest Management methods used to reduce the need for pesticides, including introducing good bugs to the fields to get rid of the bad bugs; and the environmentally friendly Bug Vac, a device that sucks bugs off plants without damaging the fruit. 

“Well•Pict’s commitment to sustainability also extends to their product packaging, with 100 percent recyclable plastic clamshells, made up of 70 percent recycled drinking bottles, and 50 percent of the power used in the manufacturing process to produce them comes from the sun,” adds Grabowski.     

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