(Jan. 9) WHEELING, W.Va. — A pioneer in East Coast fresh-cut fruit and vegetable processing is stepping down from a company that is said to have been the first to ship California bin lettuce to the East Coast.

Howard Long, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Coronet Foods Inc., Wheeling, announced his retirement Jan. 1 from a company he founded nearly 40 years ago.

“My announcement to retire enables Coronet Foods to fulfill our succession planning strategy,” he said in a news release. Long was unavailable for comment.

He will remain as board chairman and a major shareholder.

Ernie Pascua has succeeded Long as Coronet’s CEO.

Long’s son, Denny, who represents the Long family on the Coronet board, will continue as vice chairman.

“He started his business with three employees and no customers locally and developed the business into a sizeable, regional corporation,” Denny Long said.

The operation then expanded to the West Coast with operations in the United Kingdom, France and two plants in China, Long said.
During the 1970s, Howard Long was instrumental in shipping bin lettuce to the East Coast, Denny Long said.

“We were the first company to get it approved, shipping bulk bin lettuce for fresh-cut processing,” he said.

Coronet distributes a full-line of fresh-cut vegetables for foodservice and retail customers throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and West Coast.

The firm has lettuce processing plants in Salinas, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz.

“With Howard’s support, and looking for strategic partners, we will continue to grow the company on both the East and West coasts and will improve on our current core products as well as add new products,” Pascua said.

Pascua would not elaborate on what partners Coronet would seek nor the types of new products the company plans to introduce.

With 11 years experience in the produce industry, Pascua previously headed his own consulting company, and held executive positions with Sunblush Holdings U.S.A. Corp., Boston; ProPacific Fresh, Durham, Calif.; and Fresh Express Inc., Salinas.

He also had management positions with Spreckels Industries in the sugar processing and airline supply industries and with spice firm McCormick & Co Inc.

Coronet founder, CEO Long retiring
Howard Long (left) will be succeeded by Ernie Pascua.