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Organics are fueling growth at Grimmway Farms

With more than 33,000 acres that are certified organic, carrot giant Grimmway Farms, based in Bakersfield, CA, is a significant player in the production of organic carrots and other fresh vegetables.

Bob Borda, vice president of marketing for the firm, said the firms Cal-Organic Farms division sells about 65 different vegetables under the Cal-Organics banner including all the leafy greens, cauliflower, leeks, broccoli, bok choy and, of course, carrots.

“We have a very strong organics program,” he said, “but carrots are still the driver of everything we do. Even though we have lots of organic items, organic carrots still are a very important factor.”

Baby-carrot-bag-beauty-01.TIF1Grimmway Farms’ cut and peeled baby carrots.Borda said that while the sales of conventional carrots are basically static, organic carrot sales are on the rise and more than make up for any losses on the conventional side. In fact, a few retailers only carry some organic carrot SKUs when they can get consistent supply at a fairly similar price point.

The Grimmway executive said that tends to be the case for some upscale retailers, with limited space, who have a strong organic clientele.

“To save refrigerated space, sometimes they might carry just an organic cello pack, for example, rather than both a conventional and organic pack,” he said.

It makes no difference to Grimmway Farms, which is the largest carrot grower-shipper in the country. With a significant percentage of market share in all carrot categories, they prosper as long as carrots are moving off the retail shelf.

As Borda was speaking to The Produce News in late February, Grimmway Farms had completed the carrot production transition from the Southern San Joaquin Valley, where it is headquartered, to the California desert about 300 miles further south. The Imperial Valley region will supply the company with its carrots for the next several months. “We stay in the desert until it gets too hot, which is usually around the first of May,” he said. “Then we will come back to the Bakersfield area.”

While this move requires the shifting of harvest crews, equipment and trucks, Borda said that to the firm’s customers it is a seamless transition. The carrots are harvested in a different location but they are still processed and shipped from the Bakersfield facility. Customers don’t note a difference, he said.

Those same customers, however, will note a bit of a difference this year when they start sourcing their fresh potatoes from the Bakersfield area. About 15 years ago, Grimmway Farms purchased the King Pak Potato Co. in nearby Edison, CA. That company had a separate sales agent selling the King Pak potato program since its purchase. “This year we have moved the sales in-house,” Borda said. “Customers will be able to buy their carrots and potatoes, both organic and conventional, from one salesman.”

Although it is not entirely new, the company’s premium organic beverage line, marketed under the “TRUE” label is new enough to merit mention. It was introduced in October and Borda said sales and distribution have been strong throughout the country.

“What is unique about our beverage is that each flavor is powered by Cal-Organic vegetables as well as fruit,” said Borda. “Every flavor contains at least one vegetable.”

The new “TRUE” organic juice line consists of six full-bodied flavors — Bunched Greens, Bananaberry Crush, Wild Berry Blend, Tropical Mango, Blended Blue and Pure Carrot — in single-serve 12-ounce and multi-serve 28-ounce bottles.