Earl’s Organic Produce, a staple on the San Francisco terminal market for more than 25 years, has become the city’s first 100% organic produce distribution house to have its own banana ripening rooms, said Patrick Stewart, head of sales.
Three new ripening rooms already were in operation in late December and will allow the company to control its banana program from start to finish, Stewart said.
The company expects to open the expanded warehouse in January.
The company’s banana program has grown significantly over the years, he said.
At one time, the firm bought preconditioned bananas from another supplier, but now Earl’s buys directly from a grower in Peru.
In the past, the company brought bananas directly to its facility, stored them there and then sent them out to be gassed.
“This created inconsistency,” Stewart said, so the company decided to improve the process.
“By taking control of (the ripening process), we feel banana sales will increase,” he said, and the company has gained control over the color and condition of its bananas.
Earl’s Organic Produce also has expanded its 20,000-square-foot warehouse to 30,000 square feet and added triple racking, which doubled storage space capability and provided more office space, Stewart said.
The company also has changed its warehouse management system to become more mechanized in order picking and brought in pallet riders to replace hand trucks and speed the loading process.
As a leading Bay Area wholesaler of organic produce, Earl’s Organic partners with growers of all sizes to bring diversity, flavor and quality to the organic marketplace year-round, Stewart said.
The company, which offers a full range of organic fruits and vegetables, provides delivery to natural food co-ops, independent retailers, regional grocery markets and national chain stores.
In part because of its increasing social media activities and community involvement, the company recently has seen its biggest growth in 10 years, said owner Earl Herrick.