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OPN Connect Newsletter 272 · June 9, 2022

North Bay Produce’s Growers Strive for Excellence in Produce and Service


A cooperative of more than 30 growers from North, Central, and South America, North Bay Produce has built a reputation for providing consumers with the highest-quality fruits and vegetables 12 months a year. And part of its commitment to fulfilling the needs of its customer base is its dedicated organic program.

“Our organic offerings include organic blueberries, organic blackberries, organic raspberries, organic strawberries, organic asparagus, and organic French beans,” said Ryan Lockman, vice president of sales for North Bay Produce, headquartered in Traverse City, MI. “We have continued development of organic supply with new growers and growing locations, as well as continued our work with our retail partners to increase organic merchandising, which will hopefully increase organic sales.”

Global Organics Aug 2022

Ryan Lockman, Vice President of Sales, North Bay Produce

“We have continued development of organic supply with new growers and growing locations, as well as continued our work with our retail partners to increase organic merchandising, which will hopefully increase organic sales.” – Ryan Lockman

The roots of North Bay Produce date back to 1984, when it was founded as Wilderness Fresh Produce under parent company Cherry Central Cooperative, Inc. It originally marketed fresh apples, asparagus, and prune plums for its members in Michigan. As demand for year-round fresh produce increased in the mid-1980s, the company started importing product from Latin America.

Its success led to Wilderness Fresh and its partners from Latin America establishing North Bay Produce, Inc. in 1991.

Chelan Aug 2022

North Bay Produce’s team of experts market the produce grown by its members to retailers, wholesalers, and foodservice distributors throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. They are committed to providing clients with consistently high-quality produce from growers who comply with food safety and security standards and handling protocols. Employees at each of North Bay Produce’s warehouses and packing facilities inspect and oversee handling of all fruits and vegetables that the company distributes, thus guaranteeing freshness and quality.

Key to the company’s success is its commitment to building trust with its customers.

“North Bay is big on distributing a quality product with the service to back it up,” Lockman said. “We take pride in being able to offer a service level that our competition has a hard time matching. North Bay has the experience, distribution channels, and ability to be very reactive to customer needswith the ability to deliver to most DC’s within the country overnight.”

Misionero Aug 2022

North Bay Produce’s facilities are open 360 days a year, and its sales representatives are available 24/7 to ensure customers can succeed in today’s fast-paced produce industry.

“We take pride in being able to offer a service level that our competition has a hard time matching. North Bay has the experience, distribution channels, and ability to be very reactive to customer needswith the ability to deliver to most DC’s within the country overnight.” – Ryan Lockman

Though business has been strong in 2022, Lockman said the company has been dealing with several challenges, including labor and logistical issues. Other concerns involve increased costs of growing, marketing, and moving goods through the supply chain. The factors influencing those increased costs include inflation, material availability, and changing habits—both good and bad—in consumer buying.

Cal-Organic Aug 2022

On the flip side, there have also been developments over the past two years that have benefited business, including shoppers becoming more educated on healthy living and committing to healthy foods, which has also resulted in an increase in sales of organics.

North Bay Produce is offering some products, including blueberries in several top seal packaging options: 12x1 pint, 12x18-oz., 12x24-oz., and 12x2-lbs.

Though business has been strong in 2022, Lockman said the company has been dealing with several challenges, including labor and logistical issues.

Vitalis

“North Bay is currently excited about our addition of strawberries into our 52-week berry offering as well as the introduction [of] a proprietary blueberry program called Sekoya,” Lockman said. “We will also continue the development of our top seal program, which is meant to decrease plastic usage by up to 30 percent.”