Awe Sum Organics

David Posner’s interest in organically grown produce began when he was but a teenager. It grew quickly into a passion, which continues to burn.

That passion has served to alter the organic landscape of produce sections in markets throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Today, Awe Sum Organics imports to both U.S. coasts annually nearly 1,000 containers of organic apples, pears, kiwifruit, mangoes, cherries and blueberries, Posner said.

It is North America’s largest importer of organic apples and kiwifruit from New Zealand, he said.

Success for a company celebrating its 25th anniversary this year seems to come as a surprise to Posner — and to other organic produce pioneers.

“Many of us don’t even know why or how we got to this point,” he said. “I do know what really drives sales is the flavor, and that’s why I believe so much in organics.”

Gourmet Trading Co.

It was 25 years ago when brothers Chris and Paul Martin — a pair of New Zealand imports — launched Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co.

Having grown up in and around agriculture, the brothers’ new company initially functioned as a sales agent for the products grown on their New Zealand farms. Other growers soon expanded the inventory.

“When the company started, we were selling a wide variety of fresh produce, everything from mangoes to strawberries to apricots,” said Julia Inestroza, marketing and merchandising manager.

As the company evolved, the Martins were able to hone in on exactly what they did really well, she said.

Over the years, the Gourmet Trading inventory has been whittled down to fresh asparagus and blueberries. At the same time, the company has expanded its involvement far beyond the role of a sales agent.

Chris Martin, president and chief executive officer, was among the first importers to recognize Peru’s potential as an asparagus growing region, Inestroza said.

Markon Cooperative Inc.

Markon Cooperative Inc., Salinas, Calif., will celebrate its 25th anniversary this fall.

“When this company was founded, broadliners sold everything to everyone,” said Tim York, president of Markon. “But nobody specialized in serving foodservice.”

It was a handful of those broadliners — led by the late Paul Gordon and Phoenix-based Shamrock Foods Co. — who recognized in the early 1980s the need for a specialized foodservice distributor, York said.

Food safety has always been one ingredient in Markon’s standards.

The company’s 10 distributors — or members, as Markon calls them — chalk up annual sales of fresh produce exceeding $14 billion to North America’s foodservice operators.

(Note on correction: The number of Markon distributors and the amount of fresh produce sales were originally incorrect.)

Timco Worldwide Inc.

Timco Worldwide Inc., Davis, Calif., is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Today, Timco Worldwide has a grower network that reaches into 12 U.S. states, Mexico and Central America.

The company, among the first to develop a year-round supply of watermelons and other melon varieties, has entered into a breeding partnership with Israel-based Origene Seeds Ltd.

Timco’s Melon Up brand is sold at markets throughout North America and is exported to Europe and Asia.

Quality and continuity of supply rank among Timco’s top goals, said Rex Lawrence, vice president of operations.

In support of its grower-partners, the company has taken over tasks that often fall on the shoulders of growers — such tasks as coordinating with third-party auditors, establishing food safety standards, traceability duties and handling recalls, he said.

“We want our growers to do what they do best, and we’ll take care of the rest,” Lawrence said.

Recent changes at Timco are not limited to buildings and research.

Lawrence was recently promoted from sales director to his new post as vice president of operations. The promotion capped an unsuccessful three-year, out-of-company search, said Tim Colin, the company’s chief executive officer.