The sophomore season of the “new” Clifford Produce is going just as well, if not better, than the company’s rookie season, said Anthony Totta, marketing director.
“We have continued to grow in all categories in sales,” he said.
Tomatoes on the vine, a slew of new specialty tomatoes and other vegetables have been among the company’s top performers over the past year, Totta said.
Of course, Ruthven, Ont.-based Clifford is no industry newcomer.
When Burt Clifford founded Clifford Produce in 1929, it was one of Southwestern Ontario's original produce suppliers.
Back then, of course, it was field-grown business. Clifford grew and distributed onions, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and other vegetables.
In 1976, Clifford retired. Ten growers bought the company and retooled it as a greenhouse growing operation.
Then in 2010 the company underwent another major facelift.
In the spring of that year, Clifford added 10 more greenhouse vegetable growers from Ontario’s sunbelt region and became one of North America’s largest greenhouse produce marketing operations.
In its current incarnation, Totta said, Clifford’s members grow beefsteak and on-the-vine tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, seedless and miniature cucumbers and other vegetables on about 200 acres.
New packs and new marketing tools are among the company highlights as it gears up for the first anniversary of its facelift this spring, Totta said.
“Our new offerings are primarily in the form of value-added packaging and merchandising display units,” he said.
When the old Clifford turned into the new Clifford, the company embraced new tracking technologies; expanded its trucking line; and launched a major re-branding effort that included a new marketing strategy, logo and website.
The retooling, Totta said, gave Clifford the infrastructure and resources to act as a major supplier of hothouse products on an international scale.
That said, the company remains committed to providing the same level of service and quality its customers have come to expect from a “small scale” company, Totta said.
The new Clifford also has its own full fleet of trucks to guarantee on-time delivery of products to customers.
The company’s new tracking technologies, including smart tags and traceability software that can identify the origin and pinpoint the location of shipments at any given time, Totta said.