Pro*Act Specialties is changing its name to Harvest Sensations, which is the company’s label, and is ramping up its push into retail, connecting directly to consumers through a revamped Web site.

Harvest Sensations will be the official name of the company June 1.

Monterey-based Pro*Act launched Pro*Act Specialties mid-2000 to source specialty produce for wholesale produce companies nationwide. The company launched its Harvest Sensations label in spring 2001 and launched the original site that November.

Dean Simon, president, and Gwen Gulliksen, director of sales and marketing, were with the firm at the beginning. Gulliksen left the company three years ago, after serving as vice president since its founding. She rejoined in the past month to assist with the site and the company’s new outreach to home chefs and consumers through retail outlets.

“The last Web site was really focused on foodservice, but this is for all customers,” Simon said. “We have a retail base now.”

Simon said the company is expanding fresh-cut items for retail, including hand-peeled baby carrots and hand-shucked English peas. Simon said Harvest Sensations has about 18 items total in retail, including fingerling potatoes, colored cauliflower and baby squash.

Harvest Sensations will continue to operate from Los Angeles and Miami. The Miami location is under new management with Tom Travers, general manager. Travers comes from Birmingham, Ala.-based Adams Produce Co. Inc., where he managed the company’s Pensacola, Fla., branch. Travers succeeded Jose Ruano.

“Adams is a Pro*Act member, has been for a while, and Tom's got a great knowledge of the south Florida market,” Simon said.

The site’s new features include a listing of available products, recipes, seasonal specialties, menu suggestions, food facts and a place to submit questions.

“This is much more interactive,” Simon said. “With the economy, foodservice business is down a bit, but retail has picked up and so have people’s tastes for specialty and fine food, so we’re taking things that worked in restaurants and taking them to retail.”

An “Ask the Chef” feature allows users to ask questions about specialty produce or recipe ideas, with a turnaround target of 24 hours. Simon and Gulliksen are chefs, and through their expertise and the help of chef consultants, they are able to answers users’ questions about specialty produce.

“I had someone e-mail me who wanted a mojito recipe, which is not something you see normally with produce, but they had heard about our fresh herbs,” Simon said.

Simon said within the next few months the site will be an online fresh produce marketplace.
“We ship direct to restaurants and have food distributors across the country, so we can also point them to one of our distributors,” Simon said.

Harvest Sensations also introduced a new logo.

During her hiatus, Gulliksen started her own company, Artainable Cuisine, based in Los Angeles.

“I worked with small family farmer friends, many who grow for us still,” Gulliksen said. “I helped them set up for (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point programs) and get into farmers markets.”