A premier service-centric produce wholesaler for more than 114 years, Crosset Company (originally known as LCR) was founded in Cincinnati by a trio of friends—James Leonard, Walter Crosset and George Riley.
At first, it dealt primarily in onions, cabbage, rutabagas and watermelons, but in 1907, the company added a buying office in Michigan to procure potatoes directly from growers located in Michigan and Northern Ohio.
Greg Kurkjian, Crosset Company’s Vice President and General Manager
“This model proved successful, and as volume grew, LCR increased both the number of produce items available to their customers and their geographic service area,” says Greg Kurkjian, the company’s vice president and general manager. “Recognizing the important role fresh produce plays in creating competitive differentiation and shopper satisfaction and loyalty for retailers, Crosset added direct store delivery and merchandising advice and assistance in 1964.”
Crosset, now headquartered in Independence, Kentucky, became part of the Castellini Group of Companies in 1993, allowing it to increase the reach of its retail coverage, enhance its repack and value-added operations and strengthen its grower relationships. It is now a leading full-service distributor of organic and conventional fresh produce and floral products to retail customers located east of the Mississippi River.
“Organic produce is at the heart of what we do,” Kurkjian says. “We saw consumer demand increasing for organic produce early-on and jumped in to help our customers realize the potential of a well-executed organic produce program.”
Crosset offers a complete produce assortment of more than 400 organic and 1,200 conventional produce items. In addition, through the Castellini Group of Companies, it offers fresh cut fruit and vegetables, as well as fresh prepared salads, sandwiches, snacks and more.
“Organic produce category growth trends tend to mirror the growth trends of their conventional counterparts, as organic-committed shoppers look for organic options within their favorite categories and organic supply is expanding,” Kurkjian says. “Berries, cooking greens, lettuce, cauliflower and mushrooms continue to grow. We’ve also seen growth in tropical items, such as mangoes and pineapple.”
The secret to its success has been a combination of developing long-standing and mutually beneficial relationships with the premier local, regional and national growers of organic produce, creating a strong logistics network that allows it to simplify the supply chain for both growers and customers, and consistently delivering exceptional service focused on helping retailers delight their shoppers and realize profitable growth.
“To ensure our organic produce program is authentic, we hold ourselves and our suppliers to stringent organic certifications, standards and best practices,” Kurkjian says.
The biggest challenges the company faces today are ensuring sufficient supply of high quality, certified organic produce to meet demand; ensuring the integrity of the Organic label is maintained from field to store; and, as for all produce, ensuring food safety and finding the labor necessary to get produce from the field to the store.
“In addition, optimizing the organic product assortment and price points for store clusters across a broader range of demographics, thereby allowing shoppers of all income levels who are committed to an organic lifestyle to incorporate organic produce within their food budget,” Kurkjian says.
Conversely, the company sees opportunities ahead as organic produce is aligned with consumer demographic and lifestyle trends.
“We can enjoy exponential growth by communicating our relevance as part of a healthy, active lifestyle and by continuing to deliver authentic, delicious, high quality and safe fresh produce,” Kurkjian says. “Locally grown continues to increase in popularity and we are uniquely positioned to deliver on that promise for both our grower network and our customers. Our value-added quality, repack, labelling, and ripening services allow both our growers and customers focus on what they do best: grow and sell produce.”
The company is certified by Quality Assurance International as an organic Distributor/RePacker, require proof from its organic suppliers that their products are grown and processed in compliance with the USDA’s National Organic Program requirements, and are members of the Organic Trade Association.
“Our Vision is to be recognized as the premier distributor of certified organic produce, delivering sustainable, profitable growth for our customers and suppliers and delighting the communities they serve,” Kurkjian says. “Our footprint, logistics network, value-added services and retail expertise can help local growers get their product to market and retailers to maximize this opportunity for incremental volume, revenue, and shopper satisfaction.”