A “supergroup” of fresh produce consultants hopes to help companies get up to speed on new traceability protocols and to meet other industry challenges.

Tony Merola, Ron Pelger, John Shelford, Anthony Totta and Tim Vaux are among the industry veterans that joined forces in April to form Kansas City, Mo.-based FreshXperts.

The company’s Web site, www.freshxperts.com, should be up and running the week of April 20, by the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association’s annual convention April 21-24 in Las Vegas, said Totta, Fresh XPerts’ business development and marketing expert.

One inspiration for Fresh XPerts was what Totta and others perceived as a demand in the industry for expertise on traceability, tracking and other technology-related issues.

“When you get into the new technologies, people who are fruit and vegetable producers can get overwhelmed,” he said. “Their eyes glaze over when you say things like RFID.”

Totta, Pelger and others who have worked together before on produce industry projects, realized they could better benefit the industry by formally merging.

“We felt that if we collaborated, formed a brain trust, we could be more effective as a team than as stand-alone consultants,” he said “We all have something special to bring to the table.”

The members of FreshXperts plan to continue working in their current jobs:

  • Tony Merola, the new company’s creative marketing expert, is a celebrity chef and founder of Merola Marketing Group Inc., Weston, Fla.;
  • Pelger, FreshXperts’ retail merchandising expert, is the president and chief executive officer of Reno, Nev.-based RonProCon and the former director of produce merchandising and procurement for Montvale, N.J.-based A&P;
  • Shelford, the company’s berry expert and organizational governance counselor, is the former president of Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC;
  • Totta is president and chief executive officer of Grow My Profits LLC, a Lee's Summit, Mo.-based produce consulting firm, and former president of Kansas City-based Market Fresh Produce; and
  • Vaux, FreshXperts’ new venture and product expert, is the president of the Fresno-based Vaux Group and former executive for Dupont.

Other members of FreshXperts include Kenneth Hopps, managing director of Blue Latitude LLC; Mike Nicometo, chief executive officer of EmpowerTech and former director of development for Cool Chain Group AG; and Tony Totta, major account manager for Ricoh Americas Corp.