ORLANDO, Fla. — When the top executive of a multibillion dollar corporation calls your product one of his failures, that’s sure to get some notice.
In his keynote address on Oct. 15 at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit, A. G. Lafley, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble didn’t talk much specifically about produce, except for Fit Wash.
Lafley said the fruit and vegetable wash was one of his “top 10 failures” because P&G could not make it a commercial success, despite several test markets and tens of millions of dollars invested.
Lafley said despite the failure, he still buys the product for home use.
HealthPro Brands, which bought Fit Produce Wash from P&G in 2006, sees a bright future for the product.
“P&G failed because they’re P&G,” said Todd Wichmann, president and chief executive officer of the Mason, Ohio-based HealthPro. Wichmann is also a former P&G employee. “They need brands to have $100 million in sales overnight.”
The consumer products giant also didn’t have the relationships needed to get it in the right hands.
“They had soap salesman pitching this to soap buyers, telling them to find a way to stock it in produce,” he said. “It’s not going to get sold in the produce department unless you really engage there.”
And Wichmann isn’t sure the product is really cut out for consumer use. HealthPro Brands is concentrating on institutional applications.
With the emphasis on washes that came out of announcements at Fresh Summit, including the lactic acid-based wash system introduced by Chiquita’s Fresh Express brand and Taylor Farms’ chlorine-based system improvements, Fit Wash is well positioned, Wichmann said.
The company also inked a deal with Elanco Food Solutions, the animal health division of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co., for use in animal protein processing facilities back in August.
Wichmann says his product is better — statistically, scientifically better — than the produce industry’s standard chlorine washes. So why aren’t salad processors jumping on the opportunity to use Fit Wash in their facilities?
“We’re in the process of rolling it out to several processors,” he said. “It’s slightly more expensive than chlorine, and with industry profit margins and pressure they’ve been under, they’re hesitant to spend any more than they have to. Once they get behind it, you’ll see some changes.”