Company Finds Pot of Gold With Colorful Produce

Doug Ranno knows you can judge a carrot by its color.

Ranno is the chief operating officer and managing partner of Colorful Harvest, a California company that offers produce that is pleasing to the palate and pleasing to the eye.

“We grow unique, very proprietary colorful and highly nutritious product and market them under the Colorful Harvest label,” Ranno said.

Among these products are Rainbow Crunch Carrots: heirloom carrots that come in red, yellow and orange. The company’s fresh-cut version of these carrots are the Rainbow Crunch Carrot Chips. And those chips are helping the business succeed.

When the company started the fresh-cut carrot operation, it was only a small percentage of the total business. But Ranno said it’s now up to about 40 percent– and growing.

“We anticipate our volume of fresh-cut products, primarily carrots, will double over the next year,” he said. “Most of that assessment is based on increased acreage and improved processes.”

In the past, Colorful Harvest has had such strong demand that it was hard for the company to keep up. With different retail operations promoting the product at different times, volume fluxes would be great. But since increasing acreage and offering several distribution points across the country, Colorful Harvest is keeping up with the customers. They even have plans to possibly expand the distribution even farther.

“Our main reason for having multiple fresh-cut operations is to keep the fresh-cut product at maximum freshness,” said Leah Maginnis, marketing manager for Colorful Harvest. “We want to deliver to our customers on each coast the freshest produce possible. We can offer Colorful Harvest fresh-cut and processed almost daily in our regional facilities.”

Where is the product going?

“Our customers are national, regional, small-market retailers looking to build color programs and national programs in their market,” Ranno said. “And (they are) foodservice distributors who realize chefs are artists who need colorful product to create menus and plate presentations.”

Colorful Harvest’s customers are split about 70 percent retail and 30 percent foodservice. But Ranno said they are working to increase the number of foodservice customers to bring the balance closer to 60-40 or even 50-50.

“A lot of these chefs love to get creative with color, and color helps their menus stand out,” Maginnis said. “Chefs are looking for products with unique qualities and incredible taste, and our heirloom Rainbow Crunch Carrots are just that.”

In fact, Colorful Harvest has worked with several well-known chefs in marketing the products. Among them are Chef Wendy Brodie and Chef Todd Fisher who have both created meal concepts with Colorful Harvest’s colorful carrots and corn. Even nationally know chef Emeril Lagasse has shown interest in Colorful Harvest’s products.

The company caters to all its customers’ needs with a variety of SKUs. Colorful Harvest has products in packs from small retail bags to five-pound foodservice bags.

Ranno has worked in both the retail and foodservice ends of the business, so he knows what customers are looking for. He also knows that the market is proving to be right for Colorful Harvest’s products.

“There is so much communication to the consumer about the phytonutrient benefits about eating a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetable for health,” Ranno said.

Since many retailers use Produce for Better Health’s 5 A Day the Color Way program, varieties that include a lot of color fit in naturally.

And kids like ’em too.

“The feedback from people who never saw a colored carrot before said it’s the best way to introduce their kids to vegetables and to get their kids to like vegetables,” Maginnis said.

Health benefits aside, colorful vegetables make for attractive displays.

“My background in the produce industry, from foodservice to retail, has shown that color helps sell product,” Ranno said. “Sixty-seven to 70 percent of all purchases are made by visual impulses.”

Growing for Health

Before the product can reach the end consumer, it has to go through a long process.

“We’ve painstakingly developed the seed varieties that work,” Ranno said. “Some take as many as eight years.”

Once a variety is decided upon, it is taken to the farms. The farming operation behind Colorful Harvest operates two ways.

Much of the product is grown on Colorful Harvest’s primary developmental farm in Merced, Calif. The farm is about 1,100 acres and is the center of a lot of the trials and process improvement work for the company.

Colorful Harvest also leases two farming areas, amounting to several hundred acres, in Brawley and Salinas, Calif.

“It’s all our land and growers, but in some cases we contract labor and packing to meet demand fluxes,” Ranno said.

The processing then occurs in three locations across the country.

“We require 100 percent of the farms and facilities to undergo initial food safety audits and an on-going third-party food safety audit,” Ranno said. “We’re just going to work with facilities that have the strictest food safety standards in place and are constantly adhering to a third-party audit.”

From a continued quality assurance standpoint, Ranno said it’s a matter of education.

“A lot of it is reminding people that we’re growing unique heirloom seed varieties,” he said. “How they grow and look is different than traditional product. We spend a lot of time developing training and communication about our product.”

Among the communication the company provides are point-of-sale cards and best merchandising practices for the retailers. For example, the point-of-sale cards for the Rainbow Crunch Carrot Chips encourage shoppers to try the chips on a salad or as a replacement for regular orange carrots in a recipe. And an added bonus, Rainbow Crunch Carrots don’t lose their color – even when cooked, Ranno said.

Other Opportunities

Colorful Harvest isn’t simply a rainbow-carrot company. It also offers Scarlet Sweet Red Corn, Orange Cauliflower – or colorflower – Violet Broccoli, Kid Candy Baby Strawberries, Baby Grape Tomatoes and Tinkerbell Peppers, which are small stuffing peppers. The company also offers fresh bulk salad mixes. Colorful Harvest works with Green Giant Fresh to market some of its fresh vegetable products. The third brand is Earth’s Harvest, which includes organic options.

“We have grown incredibly in the last couple of years,” Ranno said. “I’m excited about getting more and more into the fresh-cut realm.”

For more information on Colorful Harvest, visit

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