Salinas, Calif., has a new company that has its sights set on foodservice.
GreenGate Fresh LLLP opened as a processor-shipper just this year, starting with shipping from Yuma, Ariz., before moving to its headquarters to Salinas. The company plans to offer the core California leafy greens and salad mixes exclusively to foodservice operators.
Robby Barkley, president and chief executive officer of Barkley Ag Enterprises LLC, Yuma, is a partner and chief executive officer of the new venture. Barkley also is the current chairman of Western Growers, Irvine, Calif.
Chief operations officer Travis Pendleton and vice president of sales and marketing Jay Iverson have backgrounds at other Salinas companies. Iverson was director of sales at Mann Packing Co. Inc. and Pendleton was vice president of West Coast operations at Taylor Farm Fresh Foods.
“We worked for very successful companies and we were tickled to death with the jobs we had, but it was an opportunity to build something of our own,” Iverson said.
Barkley became involved in establishing GreenGate Fresh after Pendleton asked him to consult on a business plan. The company’s fourth partner is Keith Bazabal, vice president of procurement. Bazabal was most recently with Amigo Farms, Yuma, handling harvest management, and his experience also includes time with Tanimura & Antle as a general manager of grower operations, Iverson said.
“Raw product is a huge part of the cost component, and we needed somebody that knew their stuff at the field level, because that’s where most of the money is spent,” Iverson said.
GreenGate Fresh is focused on what Iverson calls, “the core items that put nine out of ten produce companies on the map,” including 5- and 10-pound bags of salad mix, chopped romaine and slaws made with romaine, iceberg, two colors of cabbage and carrots.
“We’ve seen a lot of companies try to be everything to everybody, and it’s a great admirable effort, but I think you lose something when you try to be everything,” Iverson said. “So we’re doing a few items and trying to be the best in the business at them. We wanted to be a low overhead company without being low budget.”
That’s not to say the company wouldn’t try something outside of those core items, Iverson said.
“If there’s an item a customer needs that we’re not talking about, if it economically makes sense there’s really not much we’re not willing to try,” Iverson said.
Iverson said the company hopes to create value for its customers by focusing on foodservice.
“In general, we felt like for some foodservice just wasn’t the focus, and we felt like that was an opportunity,” Iverson said. “Everyone’s excited to get into retail because of all the flashy logos and advertising, but at this point, we aren’t tempted by that. All of that stuff, it adds cost.”
GreenGate Fresh is leasing space in Salinas, where it has been processing lettuces and leafy greens since April. Its processing facility in Yuma is under construction, scheduled to be done before the start of the winter growing season in Arizona.
The company planned to start processing in Yuma during the past winter growing season, but never found the proper facility, so it shipped the product in whole head form.
Pendleton designed the company’s processing line, which will move to its new facility in Yuma at the end of the Salinas deal.
Barkley’s businesses, which include the growing entity Barkley Co. of Arizona, will negotiate with GreenGate as any other produce supplier, Iverson said. GreenGate has about 10 employees on the administration side and 30-40 in the packing plant, he said.
The company is using GreenGate Fresh as a brand name for its salads, and FatHead for its commodities.
The company is a member of Western Growers, the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California and both the California and Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreements.
Paul Simonds, communications manager for Western Growers, toured the Salinas plant recently, he said.
“They were moving cole slaw the day I was there, and it’s a pretty phenomenal plant,” Simonds said.
April Ward, communications director for California LGMA, said the company signed up to become a member during its open enrollment before April 1. It has already been certified.
Teressa Lopez, administrator for the Arizona LGMA, said the company went through two audits in Arizona this year and also received certification from her agency.