Albert’s Organics hires sales manager

Business updates: Los Angeles Know Your MarketPeter LeBlond, most recently with Gentile Bros. Co. in Cincinnati, has joined Bridgeport N.J.-based Albert’s Organics Inc. as key account/mass market sales manager for Albert’s Organics West in Vernon, Calif.

Albert’s Organics is a full service wholesale distributor of organic fresh produce, said Simcha Weinstein, director of marketing.

Better Life Produce prepares for expansion

Andy Difani, most recently with L&M Cos., Raleigh, N.C., has been named director of sales for Better Life Produce Inc., Los Angeles. Difani, who has 25 years of experience in the organic produce industry, said he plans to help Better Life Produce expand all facets of its operation including sales, distribution, purchasing and consolidation.

The company also is seeking new customers, he said.

The firm provides a full line of organic fruits and vegetables.

Coosemans L.A. grows NatureSweet line

Business updates: Los Angeles Know Your MarketCoosemans L.A. Inc., Los Angeles, continues to build on its line of NatureSweet brand specialty tomatoes, said Alan Pollack, general manager for Coosemans. Coosemans offers red, yellow and orange fruit in the form of teardrop and grape tomatoes.

“We are promoting and specializing in NatureSweet Cherubs, Sunbursts and Glorys,” he said. “They are very consistent in size, color and taste.”

Coosemans also has launched a program with BC Hot House Foods Inc., Langley, British Columbia, involving its sweet 100 cherry tomato on the vine, Pollack said.

Also, Nick Pollack has joined the company as a salesman. He previously was with Coosemans L.A. Shipping.

Frieda’s adds three finger lime retail packs

Business updates: Los Angeles Know Your MarketCalifornia-grown organic finger limes, a favorite of chefs and consumers, now are available from Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Inc. in three retail pack sizes — 50-gram, 4-ounce and 8-ounce clamshells — with Frieda’s signature green-and-purple label, said Karen Caplan, president and chief executive officer.

The company also is gearing up for Hatch chili season and continues to promote The Year of Purple campaign for 2013 by highlighting the health benefits of purple-hued specialties.

“We are featuring Stokes Purple sweet potatoes, champagne grapes, fiore viola, sangria artichokes and more,” she said.

Also at Frieda’s, Bailey Papazian, a recent Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo graduate, has joined the company as product development coordinator.

Fruit Distributing Corp. celebrates 55 years

Commerce, Calif.-based Fruit Distributing Corp. of California is turning 55 in August, said Jeff Weisfeld, owner and president.

His father, Harold Weisfeld, moved to San Francisco from Texas in 1953 then came to Los Angeles in 1958, where he set up shop as H. Weisfeld Corp., a buying broker.

Thanks to his Texas connections, he became the first broker to bring Texas grapefruit and Texas valencia oranges to California, Jeff Weisfeld said.

The company assumed its current name around 1960. Jeff Weisfeld started working at the firm in 1985 and assumed the reins in 1998. Harold Weisfeld, 83, still comes into the office every day.

The company’s major commodities are Texas citrus, potatoes, onions tomatoes and Mexican winter vegetables.

Also at Fruit Distributing, Sean Hire will return to head up the deciduous fruit department after a 1.5-year stint at Unified Grocers in Commerce. John Elibarri, who is new to the produce industry, joined the company as a salesman and will focus on Texas citrus.

Great West Re-Pack now its own company

Commerce, Calif.-based Great West Produce has formally created a separate company for its repack division — Vernon, Calif.-based Great West Re-Pack — said chief executive officer Paul Villa. Headed up by Jeff Johnson, the division, which has been around for five or six years, now offers its services to other companies.

“Other wholesalers, importers and growers are starting to use us,” Villa said.

The company repacks onions and citrus into consumer packs and can pack avocados or any hard-skin product.

Harvest Sensations delivers specialties

Los Angeles-based Harvest Sensations LLC has been achieving success in the retail segment with fresh herbs, beans and kale salads, said Terri Fletcher, director of foodservice and retail business development.

However, the majority of the firm’s business is on the foodservice side, where the company focuses on all specialties, including asparagus, beans, herbs and specialty potatoes.

Interfresh adds staff, grape program

Interfresh Inc., Orange, Calif., has hired three salespeople, said president Chris Puentes. Brian Campos and Yadira Gonzales, most recently with Producers Choice LLC, Los Angeles, now are part of the company’s sales staff and will focus on the company’s melon program. Interfresh offers cantaloupes, honeydews and mixed melons.

Ken Vida, most recently with Goroda Imports, Uruapan, Mexico, will work on expanding national avocado sales.

Interfresh also has opened a field office in Dallas where Frank Bonaparte hopes to expand sales, and the company launched its first branded table grape program this summer, shipping red and green seedless grapes under the Patriot label, Puentes said.

Finally, the firm will have an “I (heart) berries” strawberry program out of central Mexico from November through April. The program should be helpful for Midwest sellers, since the berries will cross in Texas, Puentes said.

Chili roasts follow Melissa’s book launch

Coinciding with the release of its newest book, “Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook,” Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce Inc. is hosting Hatch chili roasting events at Bristol Farms, Gelson’s and Sprouts supermarkets in the Los Angeles area this summer, said Robert Schueller, director of public relations.

Hatch chilies are becoming more popular every year, Schueller said.

The cookbook, written by Ida Rodriguez, Melissa’s corporate chef, and Sharon Hernandez, the company’s co-owner, has more than 150 unique and classic Hatch chili recipes for stews, casseroles, bloody marys and chocolate chip cookies. Hatch chilies are available in August and September.

Progressive expands in asparagus, fries

Progressive Produce Corp., Commerce, Calif., is significantly expanding its asparagus program and its foodservice line of Hollywood Fries, said Jack Gyben, vice president and partner.

The company continues to invest in acreage in Mexico to expand its availability of asparagus and to solidify its year-round supply, Gyben said.

“It’s made us a more significant player in the asparagus supply world.”

Progressive Produce put together its Hollywood Fries program to deliver a consistent frying performance to its foodservice customers on a year-round basis, he said.

It involved identifying and growing specific high-performance seed varieties that allow customers to confidently and consistently provide high-quality french fries and fried potatoes, Gyben said.

Ready Pac introduces organic salad bowls

Ready Pac Foods Inc., Irwindale, Calif., has introduced an organic extension of its Ready Pac Bistro Salad Bowls, said Tristan Simpson, senior director of marketing and corporate communications.

Four recipes within the Bistro Organic line have recently launched — organic cranberry walnut, organic chicken Caesar, organic Southwestern style and organic honey and mustard baby spinach.

“We have also had great traction with our Ready Snax line this year,” she said.

The trend toward increased kids’ snacking, along with research suggesting that children’s propensity to snack on fresh fruits and vegetables increases when paired with a flavored dip, makes Ready Snax “the optimal choice for promoting healthy snacking among kids,” she said.