(June 10) In a reverse of the “Go West, young man” philosophy, a West Coast retail produce distributor is expanding its distributor base and finding its fortunes back East.

Renaissance Food Group, Rancho Cordova, Calif., is continuing to push eastward through a licensing agreement reached with Produce Packaging Inc., a subsidiary of The Sanson Co., a Cleveland-based produce wholesaler and distributor.

“This is a key strategic area for us as we continue to roll out our expansion of fresh-cut centers across the U.S. for next-day delivery to retail customers,” said Jim Catchot, Renaissance’s president and chief executive officer.

The addition provides Renaissance access to accounts in Ohio, Michigan, western Pennsylvania and upstate and western New York. It gives Renaissance next-day distribution of its Garden Highway line of retail fresh-cut fruits and vegetables into 27 states.

KEEPING AHEAD

Gregory Fritz, Produce Packaging’s general manager, said Renaissance’s adoption of new produce items will help keep Sanson ahead of industry trends.

“They (Renaissance) have some attractive new items in fresh-cut that no one else is doing or will be doing for a while because of proprietary technology,” he said. “Instead of just responding to customer demands, they want to show them what’s new out there.”

Produce Packaging, which specializes in fresh-cut fruit, will distribute the overwrapped watermelon that Renaissance introduced in April. It also will distribute overwrapped hard squash, chocolate-covered strawberries and salsas, Fritz said.

Produce Packaging will test market overwrapped melons with an area supermarket chain June 14, Fritz said.

NO. 5

Produce Packaging is Renaissance’s fifth distributor. Renaissance is almost finished negotiating with a Baltimore-Washington, D.C., distributor and is in discussions with a couple of Southeastern distributors, Catchot said.

Renaissance’s other packing partners are Des Moines, Iowa-based Loffredo Fresh Produce Co. Inc.; Green Garden Packaging Co. Inc., Houston; Duck Delivery Produce Inc., Portland, Ore.; and Pacific Precut Produce Inc., Tracy, Calif.

Renaissance had been distributing in the Ohio area through a contract arrangement with Freshway Foods, Sidney, Ohio, before providing licensing rights to Produce Packaging, Catchot said.