KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Liberty Fruit Co. is experiencing a little middle-age spread, but it’s a good thing.
In its 49th year, the family-owned produce distributor and fresh-cut processor is in the midst of a growth spurt, said Arnold Caviar, owner and CEO.
“As an owner, I am more excited about our future than I have been for 10 years,” said Caviar, who runs the company with his son, president Allen Caviar. “We are now taking a different mindset. Allen’s taking on a higher role.”
Assisting the Caviars is Reade Sievert, formerly vice president of sales and recently promoted to the new post of executive vice president. Arnold Caviar said the three men are making decisions and implementing programs and plans that have been in development.
“Things are becoming reality that we have been talking about for a while now,” Arnold Caviar said.
Liberty Fruit has had a healthy relationship with foodservice operators in the Midwest, representing about a third of Liberty Fruit’s business. Equal thirds have traditionally gone to wholesale and retail customers, but the Caviars are hoping to change that.
“We’ve got a new position, director of foodservice, and we’re looking to hire two or three more sales people to handle foodservice exclusively,” Arnold Caviar said.
The Caviars hired Geoff Alston for the new foodservice director job. Also new to the company is Jeff Theisen, who is director of operations. Arnold Caviar said the company is also using an industry consultant to help them with time studies and strategies to speed production and minimize costs.
New refrigerated warehouse space is also in the works. Allen Caviar said Sept. 5 he expects to break ground “within 60 days on a new facility which will be used for storage to help with the efficiencies of our warehouse management system.”
Increased efficiency is also in the company’s future, Sievert said, as he works with chief information officer Cory Caviar and information technology director Al Rosenstock on fine tuning the Produce Pro system Liberty Fruit began installing earlier this year.
The expansion plans at Liberty Fruit also include new emphasis on locally sourced produce and specialty produce. Allen Caviar said the company plans to add a buyer who will handle only local and specialty commodities.
Sievert said there are also plans to extend the reach of Liberty Fruit. He said new distribution points will likely include Des Moines and St. Louis.
Allen Caviar said one selling point Liberty Fruit has used to increase its customer base is its food safety program. The company recently received a 97% score on its SQF Level 3 certification inspection.
“Food safety is always at the forefront for us,” Allen Caviar said. “We’ve invested a lot of capital in it, and it’s paid off.”