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Fresh from the Start set to kick off Maine broccoli deal

Favorable spring weather and a close proximity to its customer base has put Fresh from the Start LLC in a strong position for the start of its 2012 Maine broccoli deal.

“We’re right on target to start shipping in about a week or a week-and-a-half,” Lauren Keenan, who is in sales at the Riverhead, NY-based company, told The Produce News July 5. “And with the high freight rates out of California this summer, we offer a huge advantage for our customer base on the East Coast.”

Fresh from the Start, which ships product under its “Fresh from the Start” label, supplies mostly retail accounts, with some going to foodservice and wholesale as well, according FFTS LOGOnewto Ms. Keenan. It prides itself on overnight delivery to receivers as far south as Maryland and as far west as Pennsylvania. Distribution to Midwest receivers is typically one to two days.

Ms. Keenan said that Fresh from the Start expects to ship over 1 million boxes of Maine broccoli this season, which is a typical volume for the company. Product is packed in 14- and 18-count cartons, as well as Asian-cut crowns, which have been increasingly popular.

“The trend seems to be going more toward the Asian-cut crowns,” said Ms. Keenan, “but we also offer other options.”

Food safety remains at the forefront for Fresh from the Start, and the firm maintained its “Superior” rating from AIB International this year. Its traceability program also is fully in place, beginning at the seed level and extending all the way to its customers’ warehouses. Fresh from the Start also has its own distribution centers in Rotterdam, NY, Youngwood, PA, Salisbury, NC, Doraville, GA, and Pompano Beach, FL.

“We have been involved with a traceability program for several years now, and in fact we were among the early adopters,” said Ms. Keenan. “We were ahead of the curve in the beginning, and we do try to stay ahead of the curve today.”

As part of its attention to quality, Fresh from the Start employs a full-time inspector who examines the company’s fields, coolers and trucks to ensure the highest-quality product. Broccoli also undergoes a federal inspection prior to distribution.

“We are approaching our 20th year shipping Maine broccoli, and our quality seems to get better every year,” said Ms. Keenan. “We conduct trials for new varieties on an ongoing basis so that we can constantly improve our products.”

Fresh from the Start’s Maine broccoli deal runs through October, before transitioning to California in November. It also runs a cauliflower program, with nine- and 12-count jacket and 12-count wrapped product, also under the “Fresh from the Start” label.

Aside from broccoli and cauliflower, Fresh from the Start offers year-round supplies of cantaloupes, citrus, grapes, onions, potatoes, peppers and strawberries.