(Dec. 4) Though he hesitated to describe it as a matter of survival, Emmitt Pfost, one of nine partners of Premium Fresh Farms LLC, indicated a new marketing and sales relationship with Church Bros. LLC, both of Salinas, Calif., would definitely help the Premium Fresh, which was losing customers and hemorrhaging money.

Pfost said that within two years the Premium Fresh brand could possibly fold into the True Leaf Farms LLC brand. If that were to happen, he said he would most likely become a Church Bros. employee.

Talks with Church Bros. began in September, he said, spurred on by a cash drain as customers abandoned the label after learning it was packaged by Natural Selection Foods LLC, San Juan Bautista, Calif., which was implicated in the 2006 E. coli outbreak.

“That rolled down hill to us and we lost quite a bit of money,” Pfost said, “and since we’re now running all the invoices and buying all the raw products through here, we’re able to get better terms.”

Pfost said he and Susan Nunez, saleswoman, are working in the Church Bros. offices in Salinas as a cost-efficient move. He said sales coordinator Sally Stogden was considering offers at other companies and he did not know on Dec. 3 whether Rich Mier, sales and distribution, would also be coming to the Church Bros. offices.

“Obviously coming over here and being able to take advantage of the sales and marketing departments, we’ll be working hand in hand with them to try to grow the business even better than we have been doing,” he said. “There are more people here and a structured order entry system, which is more effective, plus it’s more of a one-stop shop concept where they can get all the items that Church Bros. has to tie in with our value-added products.”

Steve Church, sales manager and principal of Church Bros., said Dec. 3 the deal could be finalized by the end of the week and that it was not an acquisition or buyout.

“We’re marketing and selling Premium Fresh products to their customers at this time, but we could start offering them to our own customer base as soon as the end of the week,” he said.

Premium Fresh provides value-added products to nearly 100 foodservice customers nationwide. The line includes chopped lettuce, red and green cabbage, red and yellow onions, celery, carrots and salad blends.