Harry King (left), director of quality assurance, is a recent hire with C&C Produce and has a background as an inspector with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Steve May, director of retail business development at C&C Produce, was hired in 2016 and has 33 years of industry experience, with nearly 30 years with Balls Foods in Kansas City. ( Tom Karst )

NORTH KANSAS CITY, MO. — C&C Produce is well positioned for growth, co-owner Nick Conforti believes.

Having recently won a three-year, $48 million federal contract to supply schools and military bases in Missouri and Kansas, C&C Produce also is growing its retail, value-added, foodservice and locally grown programs from its 200,000-square-foot facility, he said.

In June this year, Nick Conforti and Joe Cali bought out Nick’s brother John Conforti’s partner share of the business. 

“It was a great partnership for 27 years, but he was ready to go on and enjoy his life,” Nick Conforti said.

Even with the departure of John Conforti, Nick said he believes has a “dream team” of executives at C&C.

Jackie Meyer, wholesale sales manager at C&C, has 32 years of industry experience and has been at the company for two decades.

“Jackie Meyer is one of the most dedicated people in the produce business,” Conforti said. “Her customers call her day and night and she always takes care of them with a smile.”

Steve May, director of retail business development, has 33 years of industry experience — with nearly 30 years with Balls Foods in Kansas City — and has been at C&C since 2016.

“Steve is respected throughout all of the produce business,” Conforti said. “Quality shippers respect his loyalty to a brand, his customers love his honesty and integrity, and we love his sales.”

May said he understands what retailers need compared with a traditional wholesaler.

“Because I was retailer, I understand how difficult it is to get communication right and get the product right,” May said. 

Another advantage is the selection available from C&C, a resource for fresh-cut value-added items and repacking services, in addition to a full range of commodities. May said fresh-cut items have seen double-digit year-over-year growth for the past three years.

New processing equipment at C&C’s Cool Creations division, including a machine that peels and cuts mangoes, has allowed fresh-cut sales to grow and help retailers save on their labor costs, Conforti said.

The company has also put in place programs to ripen mangoes and avocados, allowing those fruits to be delivered in a ready-to-eat condition.

Nick’s son, Nicholas Conforti Jr., is C&C’s foodservice sales manager, and Jim Leatz is retail sales manager for the company.

Other positions at the company include:

  • Kenny Kile, food safety manager with 34 years of industry experience and 11 years at the company;
  • Dennis Rannau, inbound transportation manager with 29 years of industry experience and 12 years at the company;
  • Chris Shea, director of local grown sales, with 32 years experience and 6 with the company; and
  • Harry King, direct of quality assurance, who is a recent hire with a background as an inspector with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

King’s experience as an inspector in many USDA offices across the country give him great quality control insights on best practices, Conforti said.

With a “dream team” at C&C, Conforti said it is exciting to execute strategies to help customers increase their sales.

“Sometimes getting the customers is not the hard part — sometimes it is retaining them,” he said. 

“The fact that we’ve retained many of our customers over 27 years, we were selling some of these customers almost as soon as we opened, and the fact that we still sell them, and we figured ways to grow and help them, has been really exciting for us.”

To meet its customers’ needs, C&C ships out anywhere from 48-55 straight trucks per day, in addition to 20-24 tractor trailers.

Incoming trucks number 20-33 per day, Conforti said.

With its school business, Conforti said C&C has supplied schools with a variety of produce items to give kids new experiences “outside the lunch box” with new tastes, such as orange cauliflower, yellow grape tomatoes and even dragon fruit. 

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