PLEASANTON, Calif. – Monterey, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Vegetables may not be known for its line of organic commodities and value-added salads, but that could be changing.
At the La Mirada, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council’s Northern California Expo April 9, Tom Hinga, district sales manager, showed off some new organic salads from Dole, and he said that’s only the beginning.
The company launched a line of bulk organic green onions, romaine hearts, celery and celery hearts in early February and plans to expand its organic commodity line in 2015 to include cauliflower, broccoli and lettuce.
“Our mission is to continue to be the worldwide leader in produce,” he said, “and expanding our offerings on both our organic commodities and Dole organic value-added salads items fits very nicely into that plan.” The new salads are arugula, baby spinach, spring mix and a 50/50 mix of baby spinach and spring mix.
Dole may be a large corporation rather than a small family farm, but still, Hinga said, “We are the experts in farming, and we can get the organics done.”
Dole will source its organic vegetables through a combination of new and existing growers.
The company has forged longstanding relationships with several generations of family farmers who have provided Dole with conventional vegetables and who now are venturing into the organic side, he said.
In addition, many of today’s college graduates are earning degrees in organic farming.
“They have cut their teeth working on small organic farms,” Hinga said. “As those folks continue to infiltrate the industry, that’s what’s really going to create a change in how people view organics.”
To help choose the best growing partners, Dole has “eyes and ears at the field level and has both sourcing and planning managers that are the best in the business,” he said.
Dole and its growers see “a need for the organic element, and we are looking to add value and fill that need for the consumer,” Hinga said.
Dole will rely largely on word-of-mouth to move its commodities line, he said, and will turn to social media and consumer marketing to promote its value-added line.