(Sept. 11, UPDATED COVERAGE, 10:25 a.m.)

SALINAS, Calif. — In dedicating the James R. Lugg Global Research &amp Innovation Center, Chiquita Brands International and Fresh Express officials lauded Lugg’s service to the industry, which spans more than four decades.

“We wanted to establish a legacy that would be permanent in honor of Jim’s 45 years with the company by naming this building, one of two research facilities worldwide,” said Fernando Aguirre, Chiquita’s chairman and chief executive officer during the Sept. 10 dedication. “Jim is an extraordinary leader and a scientist who is tremendously curious, who has created every project important to this company.”

Fresh Express, the nation’s largest salad processor, is owned by Cincinnati-based Chiquita. Lugg is the executive vice president for science and quality for Fresh Express.

The center has been a research facility for Fresh Express since 1973, Lugg said. More than 40 employees work at the center, which includes the company’s trial farms, pilot manufacturing plant, consumer test kitchen and a retail merchandising lab where value-added products are created and tested.

Lugg was a research director for Bruce Church Inc., the predecessor company to Fresh Express in 1963, Aguirre said. In 1966, he began serving as president of TransFresh Corp, the technology arm of Bruce Church Inc. He was involved in developing the packaged salad business, now worth more than $3 billion, Aguirre said.

Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue, president of Royal Rose LLC, said all Fresh Express products from now on would have Lugg’s stamp.

“His stamp is also on the community in that he has made it the center of fresh produce,” Donohue said.

Lugg thanked Donohue for helping to make Salinas a business-friendly city.

“This building houses some of the best and brightest in the business, who are learning to turn fresh fruits and vegetables into products that will help consumers stay healthy,” Lugg said. “I am thankful that I paid attention to people who mentored me over the years, like Ted Taylor (chief executive officer of Fresh International Corp.) and Dave Williams (one of his earliest bosses) because they were incredibly patient and helped me grow.”

Lugg serves on a number of technical and strategic committees in the produce industry. He is a member of the U.S. Department of Agricultural Research, Extension, Education and Economics Advisory Board the College of Natural Resources Advisory Board at the University of California-Berkeley and the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at the University of California-Davis. In 2006, he was appointed to the university’s President’s Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources, and earlier this year, the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California presented him the E. E. “Gene” Harden Award for Lifetime Achievement award.

Research center dedicated in honor of Jim Lugg
Fernando Aguirre (from left), chairman and chief executive officer of Chiquita Brands International Inc., Cincinnati, holds the ribbon as Dennis Donohue, Salinas mayor and president of Royal Rose LLC, and Jim Lugg, executive vice president for science and quality for Fresh Express, cut it during the dedication ceremony Sept. 10 of the research and innovation center named in honor of Lugg’s 45 years with the Fresh Express.