Earthbound Farm projects continued sales growth

07/21/2011 11:27:00 AM
Dan Gailbraith

SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, Calif. — Earthbound Farm expects to prosper from continued strength in the organic category, including leafy green and salad products.

“We are anticipating 15% growth in revenues to $550 million for 2012,” said Charles Sweat, chief executive officer of the San Juan Bautista-based company.

The current year’s projection of $475 million reflects an increase of 37% in organic sales since 2006. Back then, Earthbound Farm was already the largest grower of organic salad greens, Sweat said.

But it was also the year of the spinach E. coli outbreak and recalls. Natural Selection Foods, which marketed the Earthbound Farm brand, was among the companies implicated. It later dissolved.

Citing steady growth and safety innovation at Earthbound Farm since then, Ernst & Young in June named Sweat its Entrepreneur of the Year for Northern California in the food products category.

Marketplace trends driven by health-conscious consumers plus Earthbound’s attention to product development, food safety and sustainability should keep sales growth moving, as Sweat sees it.

“We think double-digit increases are achievable over the next five years, and we’ve been building out resources to support that continued growth,” he said. “(We started) with ramping up our talent in product development in 2009 and increasing our organic acreage base globally.”

That same year, the company converted its clamshell packaging material to a fully recycled plastic.

On food safety, at field level Earthbound Farm tests seed, water and fertilizer inputs for salmonella and various E. coli’s. Tests are repeated at the raw and finished product stages.

“Since 2006, we’ve resolved all but one of the cases from the recall,” Sweat said. “We’ve met with many of the victims or the families and we’ve just kept focused on treating people right and doing the right thing.”



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