Baldridge joins Caldwell Fresh

Anna Baldridge, most recently with Ready Pac Foods Inc., Irwindale, Calif., has been named marketing director for Caldwell Fresh Foods, Maywood, Calif., said president Larry Vein.

Also, Maurie Thomas has retired as general manager after more than 20 years with the company, but he will continue to do some consulting, Vein said.

The company is a premier supplier to schools, he said, and offers a variety of grab-and-go and portion packs and is expanding its co-packing relationships into new areas, Vein said. The firm is a leading processor of kale, he said, and is launching an initiative on the organic, locally grown front and looking at new salad blends.

Los Angeles Know Your Market business updates 

Consolidated West launches website

Consolidated West Distributing Inc., Commerce, Calif., expects to launch a website in July, said Elvia Menendez, president and a co-owner. It will include company information and industry links for customers and consumers. The company specializes in cherries, apples and pears year-round from growing areas in California and the Northwest as well as offshore imports.


Frieda’s makes personnel changes

Frieda’s Inc., Los Alamitos, Calif., has made some changes in its sales and marketing departments. After three years in the marketing department, Alex Jackson has moved into the sales department as an account manager, said Karen Caplan, CEO and president.  Long-time employee Vicki Ewalt has moved from sales to marketing promotions manager.

Also, the company’s YouTube channel now features Jackson starring in “Specialty Produce 101” videos every month.

“The videos are upbeat, informative and a bit comical,” Caplan said.

Recent additions are videos about sunchokes and pepino melons. They can be viewed at

Finally, Frieda’s has launched its Guatemala-grown purple snow peas packed in 10-pound bulk containers. 

“We are also offering two types of 12-count, 6-ounce trays: all purple or half green, half purple,” Caplan said. The product is flown to the U.S. weekly.


Great West sets success strategy

Great West Produce Inc., Commerce, Calif., is “putting in place an aggressive success strategy to bring Great West to new and exciting heights,” said Ken Ewalt, vice president of new business development, who joined the company from Irwindale, Calif.-based Ready Pac Foods Inc. last fall. “We have long and strong grower relationships and sales in asparagus, corn, leaf, berries, potatoes, wet vegetables and carrots,” he said.

The company is expanding its offerings to include items like melons, citrus, specialties and additional value-added items and is in the process of redesigning its facility with more efficient docks, additional cooler and repack space, as well new technology to track and report customer service levels.

Great West also is in the process of developing its own label on several key commodities, Ewalt said.

The company has a 26,000-square-foot repacking facility and has added staff to help manage and grow its Villa Transport operation.

“We see a huge opportunity not only in local transportation but in providing additional backhaul opportunities for our growers and customers,” Ewalt said.


Interfresh ships specialty melons

Interfresh Inc., Orange, Calif., now is shipping Peacock-brand mixed melons from California’s Westside growing area, said president Chris Puentes. The company will ship heirloom cantaloupe, orange-flesh honeydew, canary, casaba, crenshaw, galia, hami, santa claus and sharlyn varieties as well as honeydews and cantaloupes from the Westside through mid-September.

Interfresh recently completed its second season with a large Mexican berry grower, doubling its volume of Berry Lovers berries from the 2013 season, Puentes said. Interfresh shipped mostly blackberries this season and a few blueberries. 

“For 2014, our volume of Mexican blueberries will grow by nearly 10 times,” he said, to approximately 150,000 packages. He expects production to continue grow over the next few years. Blackberry volume also should rise for the 2014-15 season, which runs from October through May.

Interfresh now has a 12-month berry program, Puentes said, serving retail, wholesale and foodservice customers. 


JBJ offers improved packaging

JBJ Distributing Inc./Veg-Land Inc., Fullerton, Calif., has introduced improved packaging, said Jimmy Matiasevich, sales manager.

The company offers 1-pound bags of green beans, mini sweet peppers and brussels sprouts in the new packaging, and more new items are planned, he said.

All products are organic and come in pouch bags with handles. The program kicked off June 23.


Produce International makes upgrades

After 20 years, Produce International, Los Angeles, is undergoing a refurbishing, said Steve Cantor, a partner and director of sales and produce. The company is investing money and adding equipment and racking with an emphasis on food safety.

“Were big on food safety,” Cantor said, adding that he expects regulations to get tighter in coming years.

The company specializes in strawberries and other berries and also handles mixed greens, leaf items and tomatoes.


Progressive sees increase in sales

Two segments of the business at Commerce, Calif.-based Progressive Produce Corp. are experiencing rapid expansion, said Jack Gyben, vice president and a partner.

“Our organic business has doubled over the last year alone,” he said. “Organic business overall is reaching a critical mass to where it is bordering on mainstream.”

Double-digit increases of the past have now grown into significant numbers for Progressive and for its customers, he said. The company offers organic potatoes, onions, asparagus and other items, as requested by customers.

Progressive also has experienced dramatic growth in asparagus sales since the company bought the asparagus program of Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce last fall, he said.

“The result has been year-round availability and sourcing from Mexico, Peru, California and Washington,” Gyben said. The company now supplies customers throughout the U.S. and in Canada.


It’s a wrap for Ready Pac bowls

Ready Pac Foods Inc., Irwindale, Calif., introduced six fresh and customizable Bistro Bowl Wrap Kits, which hit shelves nationally in June, said Tristan Simpson, vice president of corporate communications.

Each wrap kit features fresh produce, protein and a tangy sauce. Kit ingredients are packaged separately so consumers can build their fresh wrap just the way they like it, she said.

Ready Pac also unveiled the graphic redesign of its Bistro Bowl Salads and Bistro Wrap Kits.

“The packaging refresh has been reimagined to better showcase the fresh ingredients in each bowl by using a smaller label to increase transparency and shift the focus back to the delicious salads,” Simpson said.

Also, Ready Pac, has named Michael Ervin plant director of its Irwindale facilities, Simpson said. He previously served as general manager at Marietta Corp., based in Vernon, Calif., and with other major corporations, including Coco-Cola Enterprises and Kraft Foods and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Vision Produce hires V.P. of operations

Alan Acosta, most recently with Ready Pac Foods Inc., Irwindale, Calif., has joined Vision Produce Co., Los Angeles, as vice president of operations for the Phoenix branch, said Bill Vogel, president.

Acosta is helping the entire company, including the Vision Import Group LLC on the East Coast, with its procurement programs from Mexico and Central and South America. The company is developing its Van Gogh Mango brand and Mojito brand limes, Vogel said.

Vision also is the sole receiver/distributor of Maui Gold pineapples in California, said Nancy Betancourt, vice president/Latin department manager.

“It’s a nice, small program that just fits certain niche business,” she said. Maui Gold is “a completely different pineapple than the MD2 pineapple” from Mexico and Central America, she said.

Available year-round, it’s described as a “premium-quality, fresh pineapple with extra sweetness, low acidity and golden, juicy flesh.”

Los Angeles Know Your Market business updates

Melissa’s shows new products

Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce, which markets under the Melissa’s brand, touted its baby brussels sprouts, packaged baby beets and sweet red kapia peppers at the United Fresh Produce Association convention in Chicago in June, said Robert Schueller, director of public relations. Baby brussels sprouts are less than an inch in diameter and lack the bitterness of their full-sized counterparts, he said. The baby beets are peeled, steamed and vacuum-sealed for freshness and ready to eat right out of the package.

The sweet red kapia is a small, tapered pepper with a brilliant lipstick-red color, Schueller said.

World Variety Produce also has taken an aggressive stance on social media, he said, with 40,000 likes on Facebook. The company also is active on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest and has received more than 35,000 views of its “Melissa’s Great Pepper Cookbook” trailer on the Melissa’s YouTube channel over the past couple of months.