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For the past nine years, Wilcox Marketing Group in Rexburg, ID, the marketing arm of Floyd Wilcox & Sons Inc., has been part of the Birds Eye family, shipping potatoes, onions and sweet potatoes under the "Birds Eye Fresh" label. Now the company has stepped away from Birds Eye and has introduced a new trade brand, "Mother Earth Fresh," according to Jim Richter, senior vice president of retail relations.

Along with that, "we have repositioned our company under the name of Wilcox Fresh instead of Wilcox Marketing Group" and introduced a new company logo, Mr. Richter told The Produce News. "It is still the same basic team, the same basic organization. But over the years, it has become clear that Wilcox is certainly much more than a marketing group. As a 61-year grower-shipper, particularly focused in the area of potatoes, we just felt it was time to reposition the company and to get our story out that Wilcox has evolved to this point."

Wilcox was "the last Birds Eye licensee," Mr. Richter said. "As a company, we have now ended our nine-year relationship with Birds Eye and transitioned away on our own with 'Mother Earth Fresh' as our premium trade brand." The company began test marketing that brand and rolling it out to customers in May. Now, with the new 2009 Idaho potato crop beginning, "we felt the timing was right to begin to talk about this publicly," he said.

The logo for the new "Mother Earth Fresh" band, which is being used on bags and cartons, incorporates the trademarked slogan, "Responsibly Grown on Family Farms," Mr. Richter noted. "We felt it was important to have that connection back to the land as a grower-shipper and begin to build a program around all the things that we do that help differentiate us from our competition."

Moving away from the Bird's Eye umbrella "gives us that ability," he said. Floyd Wilcox & Sons was founded in 1948 by Floyd Wilcox and his three sons, Keith, LeRoy and David. The operation began as a 7,000-square-foot potato packing operation, sorting potatoes and shipping them in 100-pound bags by rail to Eastern markets.

Today, the Wilcox packinghouse in Rexburg is an 88,000-square-foot facility incorporating modern technology capable of handling more than 1.4 million pounds of potatoes per day "with high-speed accuracy and tenderness," according to the company's web site.

Under the leadership of Lynn Wilcox, current president and grandson of the company's founder, and his brother, Perry, "who heads up our farming operation," Mr. Richter said, the company has "invested a lot in the area of sustainability, social responsibility and the environment. There is going to be more to come on that as we go forward, but this is the first step, as Wilcox now begins to break away under the new logo and a new company name," he said.