Partnership Pays Off

December 19, 2013

There is Glory in greens.

That’s what Glory Foods has found. Established in 1989 to produce Southern-style canned vegetables – pre-seasoned greens, peas and beans – the company branched out into fresh-cut greens in 2001.

In 2009, Glory Foods teamed with the C.H. Robinson Co. to handle logistics, distribution, sales and retail customer support for its fresh-cut produce.

“Glory Foods had built a very successful business model in the fresh arena in packaged fresh greens,” said Todd Luecke, Glory Foods account manager with C.H. Robinson, a global provider of multimodal logistics services, fresh produce sourcing and information services, with headquarters in Eden, Prairie, Minn.

But Glory Foods, which used third parties to produce its greens, quickly learned that distributing fresh-cut produce, which had to be kept cold and came with a finite shelf life, was not the same as handling the canned vegetables it was accustomed to.

“They found that the supply chain was different in the fresh market,” said C.H. Robinson Marketing Manager Cara Pingel. “They didn’t really fully understand the fresh supply chain and what it takes to turn it around quickly, and get to market quickly. They reached out to us … they asked us to take over the supply chain.

“We have good connectivity to growers. We know how to market and we had done it for other programs.”

With C.H. Robinson’s involvement, additional growers and processing sites were recruited so that distribution could be expanded.

Today, six locations across the United States process Glory Foods’ greens. In some markets, extra growers have been enlisted to assure an adequate flow of product.

The partnership continued after the purchase of Glory Foods by Effingham, S.C.-based McCall Farms in 2011. And it has paid off.

“We’ve had very good success with C.H. Robinson,” said Annie Ham, director of marketing for McCall Farms/Glory Foods.

When Glory Foods ventured into the fresh-cut produce realm, it stayed the course of its Southern cooking roots and grew to offer the greens typically associated with that style of cuisine: collard, turnip and mustard greens, kale and a mustard-turnip greens mix. Over time, and with C.H. Robinson’s guidance, Glory has expanded its reach and distribution, also adding a curly leaf spinach in recent years and currently offering 13 products.

“It’s been a good success story,” Ham said. “We are the biggest brand out there right now with collard greens, mustard greens, mixed greens, kale and turnip greens.”

It doesn’t hurt that kale has become king – and currently holds an appeal that reaches well beyond the Southern market Glory had in mind when it started washing and bagging it.

“With the popularity of kale, it’s really getting more and more mainstream,” Pingel said.

C.H. Robinson figures show that kale is the fastest-growing commodity in produce.

“In the last two years, kale has grown by hundreds of percent … volume is up 200 percent,” Luecke said. “The reason for the growth is primarily the nutritional benefits found in kale.”

Celebrity chefs cooking with kale and some of the other Southern greens have only helped to fuel sales, Luecke added.

“Southern vegetables in general are becoming more mainstream and popular, and that’s what we specialize in,” Ham said.

Given the boom in healthy convenience items, Glory Foods and C.H. Robinson are always on the lookout for the next big thing. Luecke said Swiss chard could be one new product on the fresh-cut horizon.

“We’re always looking,” Pingel said. “We have a really good analytics team here that helps us stay on top of the trends.

“We innovate with our customers and we innovate with our growers.”

Kathy Gibbons, contributing writer