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Clifford Produce enjoying great success with ‘Fusion’ tomatoes

Anthony Totta, director of marketing for Clifford Produce in Leamington, ON, told The Produce News June 27 that the company continues to produce several varieties and types of high-quality greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers in its Ruthven, Leamington and Kingsville, ON, greenhouses.

Anthony Totta, director of marketing for Clifford Produce.

“April through October is the heart of our season,” said Mr. Totta. “We’re in the middle of Ontario production currently with good volumes on all items.

“We continue to be particularly excited about our eco trays, our ‘Fusion’ tomatoes and our ‘Mystic’ sweet peppers,” he added.

The “Fusion” tomato item is a one-pound clamshell of small, sweet, salad tomatoes, often referred to as super cherries. It provides an extra layer of food safety at the retail end by eliminating handling of the product. The item is being well received in Canada and the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. Mr. Totta said that consumers are using them to create colorful salads as well as for grilling, adding that they are great for making shish kabobs.

Clifford Produce’s ‘Fusion’ tomato clamshell.
“Mystic” peppers are two-count sweet red peppers packaged in see-through plastic bags.

Clifford Produce’s customer list includes small and large retail chains, independent grocers, wholesalers, distributors and foodservice operations, but the majority of its product goes to retailers. All of its products are distributed across North America.

Mr. Totta said that the still weak economy has some retailers limiting their offerings.

“But the ones who do not limit their selections are proving that consumers want all of the high-quality greenhouse produce,” he said.

Clifford Produce, Mr. Totta added, has built a team of experienced professionals. It most recently hired Steve Probstfield as director of business development. A produce industry veteran with more than 40 years of experience working with fresh fruits and vegetables, Mr. Probstfield is based in Springfield, MO. His duties include being responsible for national account development, including building supply-chain partnerships with foodservice and retail operations. He will also help the company to identify and satisfy customer needs and to manage product quality. Mr. Probstfield most recently held the position of chief operating officer of NationFresh LLC, where he was responsible for managing all sales and marketing and business development efforts for tomatoes and vegetables. Prior to NationFresh, he spent 36 years with Sunkist Growers Inc. in various managerial roles, including director of foodservice sales.

Mr. Totta said that the company has added a new location in Romulus, MI.

“We are now in Boston, Kansas City, Springfield, Missouri and Romulus, and we are looking at a few more locations to be opened within the next 12 months,” he said.

Clifford Produce promotes its product as being the safest produce that money can buy due to the nature of greenhouse production.

“Our greenhouses are controlled atmosphere, and we employ cutting-edge technologies,” he said.

Clifford Produce is a pacesetter in its packaging. It is employing biodegradable trays, flow-through breathable films and corrugated display units that enable its retail partners to introduce the new package designs without having to reset their produce departments.

“We are long-term thinkers,” said Mr. Totta. “The integrity of our product is maintained throughout the supply chain to ensure reduced shrink. This adds an economic value to doing business with Clifford Produce. We provide suppliers with the knowledge of where shipments are at all times. Our cool chain accountability shows how well temperatures are maintained throughout the entire supply chain.”

Clifford Produce was the recipient of awards at two separate events in June — the 2011 PAC Leadership Awards Gala at the Toronto Congress Centre, and the Coolest Cucumber competition at the Leamington Agricultural Fair.