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FreshSense partners bring 'Ripe ‘N Ready' marketing in house

by Rand Green | February 10, 2010
FreshSense, a company formed in early 2007 by several California stone fruit shippers, including the original partners of the Ripe 'N Ready marketing group, to take over management of the "Ripe 'N Ready" brand of tree fruit, is now owned by just two grower-shippers.

But those two will have "a significant amount of volume," possibly as much as "15 percent of the peaches and nectarines in the industry" this year, according to Doug Sankey, vice president of marketing for Sun West Fruit Co. Inc. in Parlier, CA.

The current partners, Sun West and Fowler Packing Co. Inc. in Fresno, CA, have now brought the marketing in house for the "Ripe 'N Ready" brand as well as for the "Zeal" brand, which Fresh Sense launched in 2008 and which is used for products grown under certified-sustainable practices.

Fresh Sense formerly had a separate marketing staff headed by Blair Richardson, previously president of the California Tree Fruit Agreement. Mr. Richardson left FreshSense in October to take a position as chief executive officer of Enns Packing in Dinuba, CA, a fruit grower and packer whose products are marketed by WesPak Sales.

The number of partners in FreshSense was down to three at the beginning of 2009 and then dropped to two when the Ballantine Produce Co. Inc., headquartered in Sanger, CA, discontinued operations in May. But "it has worked out a lot better for us anyway," Mr. Sankey told The Produce News Feb. 8. The remaining partners are both major vertically integrated growing and packing operations, and "we have a lot more control with fewer growers involved and fewer shippers involved," he said. "It has been a positive consolidation for the group."

Both the Parnagian family that owns Fowler Packing and the Britz family that owns Sun West have increased their volumes significantly, and between them they now "control close to 9,000 acres of tree fruit." With that "significant amount of volume, we are combining resources in a manner to help us tackle larger-scale ... customer demands," Mr. Sankey said.

Although Sun West and Fowler have brought the marketing of the "Ripe 'N Ready" and "Zeal" brands in-house for the 2010 season, "we are continuing to do the things that we have done in the past as far as joint marketing efforts," Mr. Sankey said. All the point-of-sale and other marketing materials as well as the "behind-the-scenes" marketing support "are still in place."

FreshSense remains "the umbrella we are working under" for the marketing of those two consumer brands, Mr. Sankey said. It continues to be "our branded label marketing company" but without a separate staff.

Customers can call the sales and marketing teams of either Sun West or Fowler to procure products in those labels and to participate in the marketing programs, he explained.