Veritable Vegetable, the longest-running organic produce distributor in the US, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and is in the process of planning its ownership transition.
“We have so much to celebrate! And so much to be grateful for,” says Nicole Mason, director of community engagement for the San Francisco-based company. “It’s hard to believe that Veritable Vegetable has been in business for 50 years. We are busy lining up some exciting events for staff and some creative ways to spread the word of our special milestone to our sizable community.”
Bu Nygrens, Director of Purchasing, Veritable Vegetable (left) and Nicole Mason, Director of Community Engagement, Veritable Vegetable
Founded in 1974 as a wholesale produce supplier to a network of health food cooperatives called the People’s Food System, Veritable Vegetable (VV) has always been dedicated to supporting small and mid-sized organic farms and independent retailers.
“Our history is extensive,” Mason says. “VV has been instrumental in creating the organic produce industry as we know it today—having supported so many small and mid-sized growers and independent customers in our decades of service. We work beyond the walls of our business: we engage in policy, advocacy, and creative ways to collaborate with organizations both in and outside of our region.”
In reflecting on Veritable Vegetable’s 50-year-history, Mason highlights several achievements that the distributor is most proud of—strong relationships with growers and customers, a unique low-emissions green fleet, and the company’s female leadership.
“Some of the farmers and co-ops that we started out with are still with us today and thriving,” Mason says. “We are so proud of these decades-long relationships and the mutual success of our businesses. Some names that come to mind include B&J Ranch, Heath Ranch, Ferrari Farms, Rainbow Grocery, Other Avenues, and Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.”
“VV has been instrumental in creating the organic produce industry as we know it today—having supported so many small and mid-sized growers and independent customers in our decades of service." - Nicole Mason
Over the years, Mason says Veritable Vegetable has put a lot of time and effort into transitioning its trucks to be environmentally friendly.
“We are so proud of our green fleet of low-emission tractors and trailers,” she says. “Our fleet of 36 trucks is among the cleanest on the road, which is unprecedented for a company of our size (100 staff). We have always been at the forefront of environmental sustainability, striving to continuously improve our equipment and technologies.”
“Most recently, we’ve upfit our first two refrigerated trailers to all electric,” she says. “This was a multi-year and complicated endeavor for our company—but a change that is critical to our collective future. Our goal is to upfit all our trailers to all-electric, enabling us to further decarbonize our fleet while maintaining fair pricing to our farmers, customers, and fair wages to our own staff.”
Mason notes that Veritable Vegetable also recently implemented a Pick to Voice System. “This new and robust order-pulling command system has allowed us to be almost paperless in our operations and has increased efficiency and efficacy in our warehouses,” she says.
For close to 50 years, VV has been owned and run by three women: Mary Jane Evans, CEO; Bu Nygrens, director of purchasing; and Karen Salinger, director of sales.
Mary Jane Evans, CEO, Veritable Vegetable
“I’m proud to be a part of Veritable Vegetable and extremely grateful to have been a part of such a successful movement and community for all these decades,” says Evans. “In 50 years as an organic distributor, we’ve accomplished so much and have so much to celebrate! And, of course, there is still more work to be done to create an equitable and healthy food system. We want to give a huge shout out to all of our supporters—friends, family, staff, customers, vendors, farmers, and community partners. We couldn’t do any of this work without you.”
As Veritable Vegetable looks to the future, it is exploring the concept of a Perpetual Purpose Trust, a unique ownership structure designed to emphasize purpose over profits.
“In 50 years as an organic distributor, we’ve accomplished so much and have so much to celebrate! And, of course, there is still more work to be done to create an equitable and healthy food system." -Mary Jane Evans
“We are taking the time to be strategic about the future of the company,” Mason says. “We are determined to stay in San Francisco and are doing a lot of work around succession planning and how to structure the company in its next iteration. Our role in the food system is more important than ever! We’ve been looking into a Perpetual Purpose Trust that will allow us to protect our mission and values in perpetuity. It’s important to us that VV’s values and mission are protected in the future, and we love the idea of empowering staff as owners and leaders.”