Ayco Farms Inc. does not want to miss out on any value-added sales of asparagus.
To this point, the Pompano Beach, Fla.-based grower-shipper said it had ceded that segment to others.
“It’s such an insignificant part of our business at the moment — maybe about 5%,” said Peter Warren, marketing and sales director.
That’s going to change, though, he said.
Ayco Farms is attempting to make a move into the value-added category by hiring a specialist, Dale Chase, to take charge of the segment, as the company’s first vice president of sales and marketing, Warren said.
“His background is value-added, so we’re in all kinds of interesting discussions about where we can take a major position in value-added,” Warren said.
Ayco Farms is going to take a look at what “proprietary products” work in the value-added arena, Warren said.
“Asparagus will play a role, but it’s not a big mover at this point for somebody to put tips in a bag and have it microwaved,” he said.
Chase, who had been vice president of national sales with Pero Family Farms in Delray Beach, Fla., brought the experience Ayco Farms was seeking, Warren said.
“Before that, he was national sales manager for retail with Green Line Foods, where he worked to bring that brand to market and grow its sales,” Warren said, noting that Chase also had worked at Freshway Foods in product development and sales.
Chase brings a recognizable name in the value-added field, Warren said.
“He’s very well known at the very high end; he deals with higher end in retail than what we’re used to dealing with,” Warren said. “We deal with buyers; he deals with people above the buyers in terms of putting programs together on the value-added scene.”
Chase arrived at Ayco Farms in early February.
Chase said value-added means more than bagging asparagus.
“It’s different packaging, packaging types, different combinations of what kind of asparagus is put into the package, how it’s cut, how it’s presented, other ingredients that can be put in to add more value,” he said.
In other words, it’s no different from any other vegetable items that are taken from strict commodities to packaged status, Chase said.
It’s important to start with basics, Chase said.
“First and foremost, if it’s washed and ready to eat, there’s some value that’s been added there,” he said. “If you do anything else, you create more interest for the consumer by the packaging design and the way you present it, it might create an interest that wasn’t there before.”
There’s no firm timetable set for creating a line of value-added asparagus products, Chase said.
“That whole plan, what we want to do is not going to be predicated by time but with the right products, the right mix at the right time,” he said. “How long it takes will depend on research and R&D it takes to move items to move forward with.”