(April 28) LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — Rarely in a career can someone go into a new company and help build a brand from the beginning, said 20-year produce, merchandising and marketing veteran Jim Richter.

But that’s just what Richter, new executive vice president of business development for Market Fresh Produce LLC intends to do.

Market Fresh Produce offers a full line of onions, sweet potatoes and potatoes. Its new onion branding effort began earlier this year.

Richter joined eight-year-old Market Fresh on April 10 after leaving his post as vice president of merchandising of perishables, dairy/frozen and grocery at Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc., Kansas City, Kan.

Richter said he can relate to retailers because he has a retail-heavy background with experience at Houston-based Randalls Food Markets Inc., Indianapolis-based Marsh Supermarkets Inc., San Antonio-based H.E. Butt Grocery Co., and Dallas-based 7-Eleven Corp.

“If I’m sitting down with a retailer at a particular company, we want to show them how it (a commodity) will help them grow volume,” Richter said.

Richter also said he plans to make products available year-round in consistent packaging. Each Market Fresh package features the Food Pyramid and 5 a Day symbol, for instance.

Anthony Totta, national marketing director, is bullish on the new onion pack. He said a 1,500-store chain would begin carrying the product soon.

Another opportunity for growth, Richter said, is car-friendly produce dishes. While working at 7-Eleven, Richter said he offered produce in a cup.

Drawing from a Marsh Supermarket study conducted in the early 1990s, Richter found that deep price discounts on key incremental sales items, such as bananas, lower sales and profits.

Along with his experience in retail, Richter served as the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association exposition chairman in New Orleans in 1998, and as the PMA convention chairman in Atlanta in 1999. He has worked on the PMA retail board and the PMA board of directors. Richter also has served as a speaker and panelist at PMA.

In 1999, the International Fresh-cut Produce Association, Alexandria, Va., named Richter fresh-cut promoter of the year.