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Muranaka Farm looks to increase its profile

by Brian Gaylord | January 14, 2009
Among its longtime customers, Moorpark, CA-based Muranaka Farm Inc. has a reputation as a "good, quiet company," according to John Killeen, vice president of sales and marketing for Muranaka.

"We've done what we said we were going to do," said Mr. Killeen, who joined the company in June.

But Mr. Killeen concededthat he has reached out to folks who didn't know that the grower-shipper is one of the larger shippers of bunched green onions in the United States.

Muranaka offers year-round supplies of more than a dozen vegetables, including core products such as radishes, cilantro, parsley, Italian parsley, kale, leeks and beets. Over the years it has added spinach, chards, mustard greens and collard greens.

People's opinions on Muranaka are "positive or neutral," Mr. Killeen said, adding that he would like the company to become more visible without losing the reason for earning a reputation as a good, quiet company that is on time and offers quality and quantity.

Muranaka's highest volume item is green onions, both iced and iceless. The company sells iced green onions in 48-count packs and iceless green onions in a 4x2 loose pack, 4x12 bunched pack and a 20-pound pack. Muranaka lets the green leaf grow out a few extra inches than is typical before cutting its long-top green onions for its 15-pound iceless packs. The extra green leaf can be used as an ingredient.

Muranaka's business breaks down to about 45 percent with foodservice and 35 percent with retail, with the remainder going to wholesalers and produce terminal markets, Mr. Killeen said.

Depending on the account, Muranaka's products may not be major products for its customers, but they're big for Muranaka, Mr. Killeen said.

The company has 600 acres of farmland by its headquarters in Moorpark, CA, and also grows product in Mexicali in Baja California, Mexico, and further south in Baja California in Ojos Negros. Those two growing areas combine for 1,300 acres of farmland.

The company has two processing facilities in Mexicali, both less than three years old. Not counting field workers, the company has more than 100 combined full- and part-time employees in California and roughly 250 in Mexico.

Muranaka has food-safety certification designations from Scientific Certification Systems Inc. and Primus Group Inc. Recently, Muranaka's program in Mexico received GlobalGAP certification through Primus. GlobalGAP was developed by the Euro-Retailer Produce Working Group to promote Good Agricultural Practices.

Muranaka distributes its products throughout the United States, with heavy exposure on the East Coast, and in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Muranaka Farm Inc. was founded 50 years ago by Minoru Muranaka and his wife, Matsue. Their sons, Harry and Roy, who own the company today, helped grow the operation in the ensuing years. Greg Emi, the current president and chief executive officer, is the grandson of Minoru and Matsue Muranaka.

The company has second- and third-generation family members working for it, and not just in the Muranaka family, Mr. Killeen said.