Reade Sievert, executive vice president of Liberty Fruit, shows off the company's new refrigerated delivery van, which allows any of the company's salesmen to make deliveries when customers need something before a regularly scheduled route truck delivery, he says. ( The Packer staff )

C&C adds packager, hires veteran

Kansas City, Mo.-based distributor C&C Produce has added a packaging machine, hired an industry veteran and continues to see huge growth in its fresh-cut business.

The VR-8 flow machine C&C installed in early August specialize in packing red, green and yellow bell peppers in crinkle foil "stoplight" packs, said Nick Conforti, partner.

Before getting the machine, C&C packed about 2,500 to 5,000 cases of stoplights per week in overwrapped trays, Conforti said.

With the VR-8, that total could double. What's already a popular item could become much more popular in new packaging, he said.

"It's a pouch, sealed at both ends. It's more of a from-shipping-point look."

Also new at C&C, the company added Kansas City produce industry veteran Steve May. Conforti said he's probably worked with May, who joined on June 1, for 35 years.

"He's not only one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry, he's one of the nicest. He's respected by all of his peers."

Just since joining in June, May has increased C&C's organic produce stock-keeping units from about 40 to more than 100, said the company's Chris Shea.

Conforti looks forward to May's help on an upcoming military contract bid.

"We feel we already do a great job on military, but we're looking forward to tapping into his experience."

On the fresh-cut side, C&C is looking forward to about 40% sales growth in its Cool Creations fresh-cut line in 2016.

A high-tech ABC fruit peeler installed last fall has made the division's pineapple, cantaloupe and honeydew products much more efficient, said the company's Bob Carl.

"It takes out the human factor. It never gets tired, it never goes on break, it makes the same thing every time."

On the horizon for Cool Creations is a line of meal kits for retail and foodservice, Carl said.

Focused mainly on vegetables, the kits will include whatever commodities are necessary to make a certain dish.


Liberty makes hires, boosts deliveries

Kansas City, Kan.-based distributor Liberty Fruit has added a delivery vehicle to its fleet and made several new hires.

Liberty Fruit began making deliveries in its new refrigerated van Aug. 1, said Allen Caviar, the company's president.

Previously, Liberty Fruit had relied on two 14-foot trucks for its "hot shot" deliveries. Those trucks are still in service, but with the new van, any salesman can hop in and make a delivery, said Reade Sievert, the company's executive vice president.

"It's for times when a customer has to have it, but they can't wait for a route truck."

The refrigerated back of the van can hold approximately 50 cases of produce.

The past year has been a busy one on the hiring side for Liberty Fruit, including the addition of two buyers.

Tom Thompson, a 23-year Kansas City industry veteran with stints at Associated Wholesale Grocers, Del Monte and retailer Cosentino's, joined last fall.

Tracy Brown, a 25-year industry veteran who worked most recently as Liberty Fruit's head of quality control, joined the company's procurement desk earlier this summer.

In January Liberty Fruit hired a quality assurance manager, Stephen Messina. A qualified Safe Quality Food practitioner, Messina has 33 years of food safety industry experience.

"He's very dedicated, and he's keeping us on the cutting edge of the latest federal food safety requirements," Sievert said.

In addition, Liberty Fruit has three new foodservice salespeople, Caviar said: Tim Green, Chris Eskina and Shannon Gault.