From its beginning in 1989, Corona, CA, based Veg-Fresh Farms has had a committed organic component to its business, but the sector of the business expanded tremendously four years ago and exponentially the past two years.
“In the last four years we have put an extra emphasis on it,” said Monique McLaws, who is in the firm’s marketing department.
She explained the key to the initial growth was the development of the supply side of organic production and sourcing. The company has farming operations in many different locations and began focusing on the need for continuous organic supplies of the year-round commodities.
Veg-Fresh Farms is a family-owned business that combines many decades of experience over three generations. Dino Cancellieri Sr. is the patriarch of the long-standing produce family and a member of the first generation. In the second generation 2 are his sons Adam, Dino Jr. and Randy Cancellieri, as well as cousin Mark Widder. To date, the third generation consists of two Widders: Clay Widder and Carrie Robertson, with some third generation Cancellieris sure to join the firm as they age-in.
McLaws said Veg Fresh now has a 52-week program for its core organic items including citrus, Brussels sprouts, green beans, tomatoes and peppers. And the company is working toward year round supplies of some other items as well. “The biggest challenge is continual supply, but we are focused on that and have partnered with growers to ensure that supply, ” she said.
The Veg-Fresh executive said partnering specifically with the organic grower community is one of the keys to uninterrupted supplies. McLaws said demand continues to grow for organic fruits and vegetables “and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down.”
For any distributor to have complete confidence in their supplies, they need to have skin in the game. “We are continuing to see year over year growth in the program and are continuing to see an expansion in the product lines,” she said. “Retailers are devoting more space to it.”
McLaws said the exponential growth for the firm has come because of both expansion in the product lines and flexibility in the retail-ready packaging it offers. “We are very flexible. If a retailer wants a 10-ounce organic snap pea pack, we will give it to him. We are also seeing an increase in private labeling,” she said. “Retailers like the national brands but we are seeing some retailers want the private label.”
Case in point is the company’s newest organic product – a three pack of organic sweet corn. McLaws said the item was just introduced as a “soft launch” and is available in either the Veg-Fresh brand or private label.
Continued product expansion, including robust growth in the organic sector, led Veg-Fresh to move from its Anaheim home in 2014 to its current state-of-the-art facility in Corona, CA, about 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The facility consists of close to 190,000 square feet of space, 150,000 of which are refrigerated. The building has 28 enclosed bays for shipping and receiving, and seven adjustable-temperature coolers, of which two are always being used specifically for organic product.