Living produce isn’t necessarily organic, but the two categories do cross paths from time to time, suppliers say.
To some, they’re congruent.
One example is Mount Pleasant, Utah-based Green Polka Dot Box Inc., which markets itself as a web-based “membership club for organic and non-GMO natural foods at wholesale pricing.”
In September, Green Polka Dot Box announced a purchase of 40 acres of land to be devoted to greenhouses for growing systems that turn out living produce lines.
The announcement followed a supply contract Green Polka Dot Box signed in August with Fresh Organics LLC, a Miami-based distributor.
The 10-year deal is worth more than $616 million to Green Polka Dot Box, officials said in a news release.
The first phase of the contract, which took effect in January, calls for organic colored bell peppers, red and green leaf and romaine lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes, including heirlooms.
Future phases will include a larger selection of the living produce as production increases, Green Polka Dot Box officials said.
In addition to opening up a sustainable program for distribution of a steady, year-round supply of living produce and other organic products to wholesale buyers in the U.S. and around the world, the land acquisition enables Green Polka Dot Box to develop, grow and sell an array of organic produce through the company’s home delivery model to members.
“This 40-acre land acquisition in Utah is another milestone that we’ve worked hard to achieve in order to launch the growing and sales of living produce,” Green Polka Dot Box CEO Rod Smith said in the news release.
Varieties, often harvested while alive, can live as long as seven to 10 days, Smith said.
Smith could not be reached for further comment.
The site in Utah will be one of the first large-scale organic farms using “aeroponic” technology in America, Green Polka Dot Box officials said. Green Polka Dot defines aeroponic technology as a “vertical growing environment in which plants are grown in mist or air environments instead of soil.”
Other companies say organics and living produce blend well.
Vince Choate, marketing director with Hollandia Produce LP/Live Gourmet, Carpinteria, Calif., said living produce enhances organic offerings.
“It’s just another addition to the living produce section,” he said. “We’ve provided some organic solutions with the butter lettuce and watercress and upland cress.”
Sales of organic living produce are bound to increase with the rest of the organic category, Choate said.
“We see very good opportunities there,” he said. “There’s demand from the retailer as the consumer continues to move forward in the organic category. It’s still doing quite well. The Organic Trade Association projects the next several years will continue in that growth pattern, and I think they’re right.”
“The rising retail (sales of living produce) leaves room for an organic product,” said Dean Luurtsema, vice president of Jenison, Mich.-based Luurtsema Sales Inc., which offers Living Salad Bowls among its products.
Luurtsema said his company has “a fair selection” of organics.
“We’re seeing organics being pretty strong,” he said.
Sales increase with education, said Jim Fox, sales director with Thermal, Calif.-based North Shore Greenhouses Inc.
“Organics are in demand, and the main questions are, ‘Is the living produce safe?’ and ’Are the farming methods sustainable?’” he said. “North Shore Living Herbs are both safe and certified SCS (Global Services) Sustainably Grown.”