Grimmway Farms/Cal-Organic's Lisa McNeece Discusses Organic Offerings, OPS Success
BAKERSFIELD, CA - With organic demand showing no signs of slowing, yet presenting a number of needs to meet soil requirements, resources are key. Grimmway-owned Cal-Organic has this in spades, as VP of Foodservice and Industrial Sales Lisa McNeece recently shared with me while reflecting on 2018’s Organic Produce Summit.
“We're a leader in the organic industry with more than 40,000 organic acres, giving us total control from the field to the fork. That control is how we differentiate ourselves,” Lisa explains, adding that Cal-Organic doesn’t transition over three years the same way others do. “We are CCOF, 100 percent organic items, but what we don’t do that others do is transition the soil over three years. For us, it’s easier to continue to let that transition, weed it, put cover crops on it to get that nutrients back in and once it hits the three-year mark, it’s CCOF certified and we see that our yield is so much better than if we just try to transition it over those three years.”
In addition to this powerful foothold, Grimmway as a whole offers upward of 65 different organic products in addition to its conventional portfolio, giving it an opportunity to have necessary discussions to provide multiple opportunities to the customer.
“I think we continue to listen to what our customers need on the organic and conventional side, sharing back and forth to grow the business. From foodservice to retail, even in ingredients, we are working to find ways of creating. What brings value doesn't always go into our retail pack, there are always opportunities to further sell that organic product,” Lisa comments, re-emphasizing a point she made during her time on OPS’s educational breakout session Organic Ingredients - Creating New Opportunities in the Produce Department.
In the session, she shared that Grimmway is finding a multitude of areas consumers are craving organic, looking beyond, as well as further into, the fresh department of the store.
“What I was really intrigued with at the show were the opportunities for continued value-added items, but even talking further with those who do process items, like Zoodles, and we need to find ways to continue creating,” Lisa says. “We have the product, and there’s always going to be opportunities to sell it to a processor who is going to further process that product.”
And of course, there’s the premium portrayal associated with the brand, tapping into a consistent affinity today’s shoppers have for a little luxury.
“Cal-O, to me, definitely has a high pedigree. It's beautiful the way we showcase our products; everything is very visual, and what we need to focus on more and more is listening to the consumer—but educating them as well,” Lisa tells me, speaking not only to the organic side but conventional as well.
When speaking on this year’s intriguing topic of balancing both sides at OPS, she adds, “I think that’s who we are, Grimmway is a huge conventional organization that bought Cal-O, and is now providing conventional and organic in a large scope. You can come to one place and load up both conventional and organic on your trucks because, for everyone, it’s about trying to add value, and that’s what we do.”
This is a message Lisa and I agree resonated strongly at OPS.
“My team is in agreement that this is a show we need to be a part of. Everyone, and this is what I find even with our competition, was about educating our customers so that they in turn can educate their customer, to identify what opportunities are out there," Lisa concludes. "I walked away truly wowed.”
Here’s to what the next OPS, and 2019 overall, will bring as Grimmway and other organic giants continue to innovate.