(Feb. 11) SALINAS, Calif. — After more than 25 years of selling fresh produce to salad processors, Tanimura & Antle Inc. on April 15 plans to discontinue selling lettuce and romaine to that segment to concentrate on retail and foodservice.

Among the processors affected are Taylor Farms California Inc. and Fresh Express Inc., both of Salinas, and Ready Pac Foods Inc., Irwindale.

Tanimura & Antle, however, expects to continue providing organic produce to the Earthbound Farm line of products from Natural Selection Foods LLC, San Juan Bautista, of which Tanimura & Antle is a part owner.

Because of lackluster sales in 2007, and waning markets during the Yuma season, Tanimura & Antle is cutting back in its planting schedule for spring in California and has pulled back from a number of bulk deals, said Ken Silveira, president.

“We’re not growing for processors anymore for a lot of reasons,” he said. “There are a lot of risks, and they’re not willing to pay a premium price. So we’d rather focus on nonprocessed market.”

Barbara Hines, spokeswoman for Fresh Express, said in an e-mail that the company is aware Tanimura & Antle is changing direction.

“They let us know that they will no longer be supplying our company,” she said. “Their shift was expected, and other arrangements have been made. We have enjoyed our working relationship with Tanimura & Antle and wish them well on their new business path.”

Silveira said the company plans to grow about 5% less product in 2008. He said the company would not sell to processors unless they agree to pay a premium price.

“We will if they get really tight, and they’re willing to pay $50 a box, and the market is really hot,” he said. “We’re growing the same products — it’s just where you send them, to the fresh market or processors. A lot of times you have to divert product from one market to the other, and we just feel that trying to supply both is not something we want to continue doing.”

Calls to Taylor Farms and Ready Pac were not returned.

In 2004, Tanimura & Antle merged its Salad Time retail and foodservice fresh-cut salad business with Ready Pac’s operations.