Kansas City, Kan.-based Liberty Fruit Co. is growing well beyond its Kansas City home, according to its CEO.
“A very bright spot for Liberty is our growth beyond Kansas City,” said John McClelland, CEO of Liberty Fruit.
“We’ve made a focused push in Iowa, Nebraska and other neighboring markets, and the results have been outstanding. We’ve served these areas for years, but we thought it was important to be more deliberate when it comes to geography — to lay out a growth plan, stick to the playbook and execute.”
Compared with a few years ago, McClelland said Liberty Fruit is more technology- and process-focused.
“We’re constantly finding new ways to manage our operational processes to make that happen,” he said.
With a new chief information officer, Liberty Fruit is re-engineering the way communication occurs within systems and staff.
Liberty Fruit is seeing strong growth in foodservice, he said, particularly in education and business and industry settings. Sales to schools grew 50% so far in 2019.
One of the core strengths of Liberty, McClelland said, is the diversity of its customer mix.
“We’re close to 50% foodservice and 50% retail/wholesale, and our structure is designed to support this balance,” he said.
“This allows us to compete for business across multiple channels and accelerate growth into new markets.”
Local produce has been a key area of growth, he said.
Through a partnership with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Liberty Fruit began co-branding local items to increase demand for Missouri Grown produce in 2019 and beyond, he said.
With value-added produce, McClelland said Liberty Fruit has become much more “customer-centric” and specialized in its approach.
“Rather than focusing so heavily on commodity products that every processor offers, we work with customers to develop specifications that drive maximum value for their operations,” he said.