( Courtesy The Nunes Co. )

Frank Robert “Bob” Nunes, who founded The Nunes Co. in 1976 with his brother Tom, has died.

Bob Nunes died Nov. 6 at his home in Pebble Beach, Calif. He was 88.

His parents were Portuguese immigrants, and they raised him on a farm in Chualar, Calif., according to an obituary. 

“My great-uncle Bob was a true gentleman, a visionary and a beacon in our industry,” Tom Nunes V, president of the company, said in the obituary. “He had an incredible passion and love for the people that helped build our company. I am so grateful for the mentorship and guidance he blessed me with.”

Bob Nunes was not afraid to take bold moves, and laid the foundation for the company’s future success, Tom Nunes V said in the obituary.

After graduating from Stanford University, he returned to California and became a vegetable inspector with Monterey County, and then a bookkeeper at a Salinas grower-shipper.

He joined his brother Tom in the early 1960’s, handling sales and marketing for Growers Exchange, and they formed Nunes Bros. of California Inc. in 1966.

Based on Bob Nunes’ plan to market to consumers, the company began experimenting with new ideas to cater to consumers, such as film-wrapping lettuce, according to the obituary. That idea landed Bob Nunes a spot on the board of directors of the Produce Packaging Association, the precursor to the Produce Marketing Association.
In 1968, Nunes Bros. and four other Salinas Valley vegetable grower-shippers were bought by United Fruit Co. (later named Chiquita) and named Interharvest, which Bob and Tom ran until 1972, according to the obituary, resigning and taking hiatus from the industry.

They returned by opening The Nunes Co.

“In addition to being a mentor, a friend and a role model, Bob was the most innovative person I’ll ever know,” Matt Seeley, Organic Produce Network co-founder, who worked with Bob Nunes for 30 years, said in the obituary. “He was two steps ahead of conventional thinking and brilliant in developing sales and marketing strategies.”

Those included marketing The Nunes Co.’s Foxy brand, using Brooke Shields and Paul Newman to promote the vegetables and build it into a recognizable brand at retail in the Northeast and other areas of the country, according to the obituary.

But beyond that, Seeley said, Bob Nunes was about “integrity and honoring your commitments — it’s the reason he was able to build such a special and well-respected company,” he said in the obituary.

Bob Nunes was known for his philanthropy, and in recent years “doing his best to help the very young, the old and the very sick, those who cannot care for themselves, and animals,” according to the obituary.

He was involved in many produce industry groups, and served on the board of directors of the Produce Packaging Association, Western Growers, the Grower Shipper Vegetable Association, American Institute of Food and Wine, and the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Foundation. He was president of the Central California Lettuce Co-op.

He was named the E.E. “Gene” Harden Lifetime Achievement recipient in 2007 by the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, a Hall of Fame member from the National Steinbeck Center and a Distinguished Trustee Award recipient from the Community Foundation of Monterey County in 2010, according to the obituary.

Survivors include a son, Bob Jr., daughter-in-law Kim, and daughter Kimberly.

A rosary is scheduled for Nov. 14 at Struve & LaPorte Funeral, and a mass is 11 a.m. Nov. 15, at St. Joseph’s Church, Spreckels, Calif.