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Adaptability is key to business survival, and G.O. Fresh continues to rise to the challenge. “As any business that navigates through a tough economy needs to make changes, so does G.O. Fresh,” Chief Operating Officer Marylou Owen told The Produce News Nov. 12. “This next year promises to be an exciting year as we adapt to an ever-changing marketplace.”

The privately-held company, centrally located in Minneapolis, MN, is a premier processor of fresh, pre-cut fruit and vegetables. The owners, Ms. Owen and Chief Executive Officer Patricia Greene, are industry veterans.

One of these exciting changes is a 15,000-square-foot expansion to be launched early next year. “G.O. Fresh’s current and future customers will enjoy our continued commitment to food safety and quality that help make them leaders in their respective businesses,” Ms. Owen stated. When the expansion is completed in early 2013, G.O. Fresh will have 60,000 square feet of plant space.

G.O. Fresh primarily works with the foodservice sector. “However, we’ve seen increased demands from our industrial manufacturing side,” Ms. Owen commented. In all, G.O. Fresh offers over 700 SKUs. The company’s extensive product list includes fruits and vegetables that are available throughout the year. Customized blends of specialty salads, vegetable medleys, salsas and fruit combinations are also offered. Product is available in a wide range of standard cut-styles and cut-sizes.

The company services a five-state area within a 350-mile radius of the plant. “Our main focus continues to be handling routes that are close to home so that customers get a fresh high-quality product consistently,” she added.

Maintaining a tight cold chain also facilitates this goal. For this reason, Ms. Owen said the company has its own refrigerated trucks and drivers. “Our dedicated drivers are trained in the proper handling of our product and understand the importance of consistent and timely deliveries,” Ms. Owen stated.

Ms. Owen was asked what new products are being offered in the value-added area. “The continuing focus in the industry seems to be in getting the best value for fresh-cut product,” she replied. “While many customers look for ways to reduce their costs, we are finding more requests for healthier and more colorful salad options. We’ve introduced new salad and salsa products which help foodservice operators provide these healthy options. We have also seen an increased demand in larger packs for value-added fresh-cut fruits.”

As for foodservice trends, Ms. Owens provided some insights as to the importance of value-added offerings. “In tougher economic times, foodservice operators are looking for any way they can save money. So value-added produce continues to be the most economical and consistent way for foodservice personnel to offer nutritious and economical food,” she replied.

On the food-safety front, Ms. Owen said G.O. Fresh stays updated on the issues through meetings hosted by United Fresh and the Produce Marketing Association. “We are awaiting the Food and Drug Administration’s version of the Food Safety Modernization Act as it pertains to our produce industry,” she added. “We are continuing to have collaborative discussion within our industry in an effort to provide high-quality and safe products to our customers. Our Quality Assurance Manager, Scott Grow, continues to serve on United’s Technical Committee that meets periodically throughout the year.”