Kevin Brooks, chief marketing officer of FoodLink, Los Gatos, Calif., says the company has been busy with creating and enhancing products specifically for grower-shippers.

“We acquired TrueTrac in the fall of last year with the specific idea we’d be doing an awful lot more like this for suppliers,” Brooks said.

Traditionally, the company has done more for the retail side of the business, offering solutions for perishable product purchasing, but now they are working to expand the product set they offer for suppliers, according to Brooks.

“We’ve been working on this for some time and now those products are coming to fruition. We are trying to extend value to the user by enhancing these products,” he said.

One recent victory for the company was the honor of its FoodLink Item software being named the best new food safety solution by members and attendees of the United Fresh Produce Association’s annual convention and expo in May in San Diego.

“We were thrilled to win this award,” Brooks said.

FoodLink Item provides item-specific traceability for fresh produce. It’s a cloud-based system that is designed to give users more value back from their traceability investments. It is now being used by major brands such as California Giant Berry Farms and Grower’s Express, Brooks said.

The software system adds information specific to individually packaged produce items the moment they are picked, which allows growers to communicate more information to consumers than was possible before.

Consumers, retailers and growers can scan a unique bar code on each package with a smartphone or tablet in order to find information specific to that item, not just the case or the pallet.

“It’s a dynamic association between the product’s origin and its packaging,” Brooks said.

“It includes not only where it came from, but also where it traveled and all that other data. Then customers can decide how much of that data they want to share with consumers through the scanning process,” Brooks said.

Warehouse management

Another new system available from FoodLink takes this kind of technology further.

“We saw there were a lot of inventory issues that come into play between a product being picked and when it goes in the cooler,” Brooks said.

In addition, though growers are willing to take whatever precautions necessary to comply with PTI requirements, some growers were asking if they could get more functionality out of the products.

“When it comes to investing in the equipment and operational costs of these PTI systems, you naturally want to look for other benefits than just avoiding potential negative consequences. You want to look for something positive,” Brooks said.

The solution was FoodLink’s warehouse management system, which provides growers with extended visibility to the product in the field that hasn’t yet been received at a cooler.

This software includes PTI requirements but takes the operational value to a new level. It is similar to an in-house system developed by Mastronardi Produce Ltd., Kingsville, Ontario, but there seemed to be a need for this type of product on the market, Brooks said.

The benefits of the system range from being better in control of scheduling trucks and managing product that needs to reach the cooler as fast as possible to helping the sales staff have a more real-time idea of what product is being shipping each day, he said.

“In some cases, you can add a day of saleability to a product, or a better ability to fill an order,” Brooks said.

The system is still in the early stages of sales, Brooks said, and Grower’s Express is the primary user right now, although other companies are starting to roll it out.