Fresh Avenue laser focused on foodservice sector

Established 18 months ago by industry veterans and a produce supplier, officials at Fresh Avenue believe its competitive advantage is derived from its singular focus on the foodservice segment.

“Retail drives a lot of attention from most grower-shippers,” said Mark Vaughan, managing partner of Santa Maria, CA,-based Fresh Avenue. “I don’t want to say they neglect foodservice but that isn’t where they are focused. On the other hand, foodservice is our sole focus.”teampic-1000 David Root, Jim Leighton, Peter Divoky, Mark Vaughan, Scott Bricker and Jamie Shipley.

In July of 2016, Fresh Avenue was established as the national sales and marketing organization for GreenGate Fresh LLP, a Salinas, CA, producer, also concentrating on providing the foodservice industry with high quality produce. Vaughan, along with Sales Manager Scott Bricker, partnered with GreeenGate to form the new organization. That partnership is still intact, but Fresh Avenue also represents other western grower-shippers focused on foodservice. Vaughan said the firm’s business model allows mid-sized growers and processors of fresh produce to utilize the national reach of Fresh Avenue to market their products throughout the country.

While Fresh Avenue’s corporate office and accounting staff are headquartered in Santa Maria, its sales team, including the two partners, is located strategically throughout the country to give these producers access to customers in every region. The sales team members are situated in population centers for easy access to a wide range of customers. Vaughan said its customers tend to be both regional and national restaurant chains with 40 or more locations. “A chain with 100 to 200 locations is right in our wheelhouse,” he said.

He said that the company’s growth curve over the past 18 months has met expectations and it continues to grow. He said it would add to the sales team as the need arises.

Fresh Avenue works directly with restaurant operators developing product lines and customizing offerings for their needs, but typically the product itself is sold through foodservice distributors. Bricker said most foodservice operations tend to use a network of food distributors to provide them with product.  

In discussing the type of services the firm offers, Bricker pointed to a recent collaboration with a national barbecue-centric restaurant chain.  “They were serving a coleslaw dish that wasn’t consistent throughout the country. We worked with them to create a coleslaw kit, complete with the dressing in a pouch, and now each of their locations is serving the same item with the same taste.”

Fresh Avenue sells the labels of its suppliers, but it has also developed its own brand, Green Light, for use on some products that are custom packed by its producers. This line consists of a number of interesting items, including leek sticks, cilantro, bok choy and green onions.  Vaughan said that while core items always make up the bulk of the business, mid-sized restaurant chains do tend to be the drivers of innovation. Chefs in these establishments are always looking for an item that they can turn into the next kale or Brussels sprouts.

Also, in August of 2017, the firm added a national logistics manager to its team to better connect the producer to the regional chains and their distribution centers.

Vaughan reiterated, “We are not a huge company. We are a veteran team with a strong quality assurance program, and relatively new facilities in both Salinas and Yuma. We have the capability of servicing nationwide chains but we also can deal with the smaller regional players. We are flexible and can customize products for our customers.”

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