Business updates: California Asparagus

01/29/2010 10:46:00 AM
Bob Luder

Asparagus commission moves headquarters

The California Asparagus Commission has moved its headquarters to a new location. Cherie Watte Angulo, executive director of the commission, will now run it at 1432 McCabe Cove in El Centro. The commission previously was located in Stockton.

Couture Farms keeps only organic asparagus

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Last year, Couture Farms, Kettleman City, Calif., installed $100,000 in food safety upgrades at its packinghouses, adding such items as a 50-foot row of stainless steel hand-washing equipment, temperature controls and chlorine controls.

Then, the company tore out all 240 acres of its conventional asparagus, citing lack of water supply and the exorbitant expense of having water shipped in.

Couture kept 88 acres of organic asparagus in a newer, younger field.

Steve Couture, owner, said his staff dropped from 175 to 50.

“Now, every worker has their own washing station,” Couture said. “But we felt we needed to get our food safety up to speed, and we think we have.”

Five Crowns Marketing shuffles sales staff

Five Crowns Marketing Inc., Brawley, Calif., made several personnel moves over the last year.

Tyler Colace was brought onto the company’s sales staff after working in sales at Quebec Distributing, a produce brokerage in San Francisco and in the New York area. Conversely, Ryan Jones, who worked in sales at Five Crowns, went to work at Quebec Distributing.

Daren Van Dyke was promoted to sales manager after working in sales for years with the company.

And Ray Spinelli, who worked in national accounts for Dole, now works in sales at Five Crowns’ office in Watsonville, Calif.

Greg Paul salesman joins Altar Produce

James Paul, who’s worked in sales at Stockton, Calif.-based Greg Paul Produce for several years, also joined the sales force recently at Altar Produce LLC, Calexico, Calif., which markets Mexican and Peruvian asparagus.

He said he thinks the synergy and knowledge overlap between the two companies’ marketing branches was a big advantage to both.

“One of the strengths Altar gains, other than added sales, is the added knowledge and availability from the Stockton deal,” Paul said. “Likewise, I feel that Greg Paul Produce gains strategic market knowledge of the Mexican and Peruvian supply base.”

Ocean Mist Farms rolls out ‘bikini sleeve’

Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville, Calif., has introduced a packaging line for many of its core items.

Foremost in that line, said asparagus product manager Jeff Post, is an innovative sleeve — called a bikini sleeve — that’s more slender and showcases the product more.

“(The sleeve) contains a nutritional panel,” Post said. “It uses less graphics, while maximizing the visibility of the product.”

Post said the bikini sleeves were being used primarily on Ocean Mist’s mixed lettuce products.

Victoria Island Farms expands blueberry deal

Victoria Island Farms, Holt, Calif., a packer and shipper of fresh asparagus for many years, decided within the last year to emphasize another area of its business.

The company undertook a major expansion in its blueberry business, jumping from two conveyor lines to six and adding a packinghouse solely for that purpose.

“That’s the growth commodity,” said sales manager Steve DeGuire. “I think we’ll double that again in two years. It’s a huge growth item in this state. It’s what everybody’s planting all over the state.”



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