Colorful Harvest: Natural Colors and Taste

Some of the best marketing for fresh-cut produce doesn’t come from packaging, signage or displays, it comes from the fresh, natural fruits and vegetables. Retail shoppers and foodservice consumers recognize that fresh is better, and they can tell by the color and quality of the produce. One company is capitalizing on that and has become one of the fastest growing produce companies on the West Coast – and it’s even reflected in the name.

Salinas, Calif.-based Colorful Harvest markets its products on the bright, natural colors of the intensely researched heirloom varieties. The company was founded on these colorful products in 2003, marketing whole products of colorful heirloom varieties. Doug Ranno, co-founder and chief operating officer, found that the heirloom varieties benefited from higher antioxidants and nutrients, and adults and kids loved them.

He worked with plant breeders and invested in farming trials to develop and grow the heirloom varieties. The techniques and processes that were developed have become a key to Colorful Harvest’s growth, and the proprietary systems are part of the product development process to this day. But it’s not all about processes – Ranno said the company listens closely to its end users, consumers at home and chefs in foodservice, to develop new products according to their needs.

Colorful Harvest has a diverse product mix and has been expanding further into the fresh-cut market. On the whole produce side, the company has a line of Rainbow Crunch Carrots that come in red, orange, tangerine, yellow and white; Ruby Jewel sweet red corn; Tri-Colored Cauliflower in purple, orange and green; purple artichokes; violet broccoli and green beans. The Colorful Harvest melon program includes cantaloupe, Honeydew and Athena; the fresh berry program ships hand-picked raspberries, blueberries and blackberries; and finally the year-round strawberry program matches varieties to the region and soil to grow sweet strawberries that are red all the way through.

Although Colorful Harvest grew its business on fresh market whole fruits and vegetables, it has been expanding into the fresh-cut market to hit the convenience market with fresh, high-quality products.

“Our products have great visual appeal and provide greater nutritional diversity, but we wanted to add convenience to the value equation for our customers,” Ranno said. “So, fresh-cut products in grab-and-go packaging made sense.”

In 2010, the company introduced its first fresh-cut product, the Colorful Classics party tray. The 20-ounce tray features the company’s colorful cauliflower and heirloom carrots accompanied by a side of sweet honey Dijon dipping sauce. The product was selected as a finalist in the Best New Vegetable Product category at the United Fresh show earlier this month.

The colorful carrots also make an appearance in a new grab-and-go convenience snack from Colorful Harvest. The Heirloom Carrot Snack Chips are single-serve snacks – five 3-ounce packages of sliced carrots in the line’s five colored varieties. The company also is introducing a value-added bag of green beans, featuring the traditional green-colored beans consumers are used to, but in a convenience pack.

Colorful Harvest markets its healthy, colorful fruit and vegetable products to both retail outlets and foodservice customers. About 60 percent of sales are retail, Ranno said, but he added that a surprising amount of growth has come from schools, driven by children attracted to the color and taste of the Colorful Harvest products. The fresh-cut offerings also go to both customers, and both markets require education about the products’ benefits. But once a customer tries an heirloom variety, the taste coupled with the color will drive repeat sales.

“We are marketing our fresh-cut products to both retails and foodservice customers. We believe that our products amazing taste, unique natural colors and diversity of nutritional benefits create repeat sales. Our challenge is educating the consumer about our products many benefits,” Ranno said.

As with any ready-to-eat product, food safety is of utmost importance, and Ranno said food safety is job No. 1. The company follows strict food safety standards, which includes third-party scored audits and random company audits. Food safety begins in the field, and all farms and facilities must clear a screening audit. Not only is a risk analysis conducted of fields growing Colorful Harvest products, but neighboring fields also are evaluated to reduce the risk of a pathogen entering the food system.

Earlier this year, Colorful Harvest hired Mario Martinez as the director of food safety and quality assurance. He’ll coordinate the food safety programs for the various crops and regions, and work with the laboratories and inspection services while managing the in-house food safety team.

“Mario is a seasoned professional. He brings to the position an excellent academic background and many years of experience in the field of food safety,” Ranno said. “Mario will be instrumental in growing our food safety program to keep pace with the rapid growth of our company.”

All of the food safety measures are designed to build trust in the company, so retail and foodservice buyers know the products they buy are healthy and safe.

“Consumers know that the Colorful Harvest brand stands for quality and integrity,” Ranno said.

The growth of Colorful Harvest can be attributed to the unique products that the company has developed, but Ranno also credits the dedicated employees of Colorful Harvest. He said they are dedicated to customer service and meeting the needs of the end users, and they support the mission of the company. Plus, they have a lot of fun along the way, he said.



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