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OPN Connect Newsletter 175 · July 16, 2020

Castellini: Creating Connections for Organic and Local Produce Success


Castellini Company, one of the largest distributors of fresh produce in the United States, is also one of the oldest members of the produce industry. For nearly 125 years, the company has prided itself on offering premium quality fresh produce to its retail and foodservice customer base and growing through strategic acquisitions that create value and simplify the field-to-consumer supply chain.

During the first quarter of 2020, the operations of the Castellini Group of Companies (Castellini Wholesale, Crosset Company, and Grant County Foods), were combined to create one fully integrated produce supply chain solution provider under one brand: Castellini.

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With a complete produce assortment of more than 400 organic items, organic produce represents 38 percent of the company’s retail volume. “We saw consumer demand for organic produce increasing early-on and have been creating the organic advantage for our customers and growers for over 20 years,” said Greg Kurkjian, Castellini executive vice president. “Organic produce continues to be a significant growth engine for us. We are bringing more stores onto our organic program, and velocity is accelerating across all the stores we service.”

Greg Kurkjian, executive vice president, Castellini

Already on a steady upward trajectory, consumer demand for organic produce sky-rocketed as COVID-19 disrupted nearly every aspect and pattern of food purchase and consumption. Kurkjian believes Castellini is uniquely positioned to support the growth through long-standing, mutually beneficial relationships with the local, regional, and national growers of organic produce, and a logistics network that is extensive and agile.

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 “We simplify the supply chain for both growers and retailers,” said Kurkjian. “The organic grower base is fragmented and geographically disperse, especially in the eastern half of the US. We help organic produce growers, both big and small, get their products to retail, both big chains and small independents. We solve supply challenges for independent retailers who lack the critical mass to buy and ship direct from growers. We solve logistics challenges for retailers who buy direct from growers. Our value-added quality, repack, labelling, ripening, warehousing, forward-distribution, and in-store merchandising services, coupled with end-to-end supply chain visibility, lets our growers and customers focus on what they do best: grow and sell produce.”

Castellini marketing support for partnered growers

Our value-added quality, repack, labelling, ripening, warehousing, forward-distribution, and in-store merchandising services, coupled with end-to-end supply chain visibility, lets our growers and customers focus on what they do best: grow and sell produce.” -Greg Kurkjian

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Kurkjian said local, seasonal growers face many of the same go-to-market challenges. “Organic and locally grown often go hand-in-hand,” said Kurkjian. “Castellini is strategically located in the heart of agricultural growing regions that enjoy high demand for their locally grown, ‘peak-of-the-season’ crops, both conventional and organic. We have operations in Wilder, KY and Atlanta, GA. This gives us the transportation and warehousing infrastructure, footprint, and expertise to consolidate in-bound loads, conduct quality inspections, package, label, cross-dock, build mixed loads, and ship for either direct store or distribution center delivery to all points east of the Mississippi River. And we do it all at scale and speed, so product arrives fresher and with longer remaining shelf life.”

Castellini marketing support for partnered growers

New for the 2020 “locally grown” season, Castellini is providing turnkey marketing support for the growers and retailers they service. “We’ve created customizable digital assets, point-of-sale signage, and merchandising fixtures for our partners,” said Stephanie Smith, senior marketing manager. “The materials include a scannable QR code that take consumers directly to the grower’s website. Now more than ever, shoppers are eager to learn about the people and practices behind the food they buy, and they want to support their local economy. We’re excited about the incremental growth and shopper satisfaction opportunity our program represents.”

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Stephanie Smith, senior marketing manager, Castellini

Powering the elevated service offerings of the integrated company is a new, state-of-the-art technology platform that provides supply chain transparency, order-to-cash efficiency, product freshness, out-of-stock reduction, and category performance analytics.

Slated to launch in the Fall 2020, the system brings together real-time data from multiple systems and presents it in a user-friendly, decision-support format. “We will be able to create customized user experiences that facilitate and accelerate decision-making,” said Kurkjian. “This represents a step-change increase in connectivity and transparency and is a significant enabler of our promise to deliver indispensable value at every touchpoint in the supply chain ecosystem.”

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