KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When Liberty Fruit Co. expanded its footprint here three years ago, company officials thought they would be set for quite a while.
But continuing growth already has the 48-year-old family-owned company preparing for another addition.
Scott Danner, chief operating officer, said a new 10,000-square-foot refrigerated space is on the drawing board and is expected to be operational by March. The new space will actually allow for an additional 30,000 square feet of capacity, though, because it will handle racks stacked three high.
“We’ll be able to hold an additional 47 loads,” Danner said.
Liberty is going higher in its existing refrigerated space, too. By the end of September Danner said it would be converted to handle racks stacked two high, increasing the company’s capacity by about 25 loads.
A new fleet of trucks is also on the company’s agenda this fall, with delivery anticipated in late September or early October. The 26 new vehicles are 22-foot straight trucks that are expected to get up to 10 miles per gallon. Liberty’s existing fleet gets about 6 mpg, Danner said.
Those new trucks will be hauling produce to the seven military commissaries that Liberty Fruit supplies. Danner said the company is in its third year with the military contract, having just received the first of three potential one-year contract extensions.
Danner said the commissaries orders are similar to mainstream grocery retailers and include organics and fresh-cut products.
School contracts make up another large chunk of Liberty’s business, which Danner said is evenly split among foodservice, wholesale and retail customers.
“It’s always been our goal to get to this point,” Danner said. “About 10 years ago we were 45% foodservice.”
Keeping the three-way balance could be tricky, though, if Liberty’s school business continues to increase.
Sales vice president Reade Sievert said during the year he’s been at Liberty the company’s school business has gone from basically nonexistent to a multimillion dollar enterprise.
Fresh-cut products are a big part of the equation, Sievert said, crediting additional funding from the federal government as partly responsible for the schools’ ability to buy a wider variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.