John Gates, president of Lancaster Foods LLC in Baltimore, told The Produce News that the company continues to increase the amount of processing it does.
“We’re engaged in a lot of fresh-cut and repacked items today,” said Mr. Gates. “New for our company is that we’re now manufacturing salads. We do a tremendous amount of fresh-cut processing for foodservice operators and retail packs for grocery stores.”
Lancaster Foods distributes a full line of organic, specialty and ethnic produce items, as well as a full line of conventional products. The firm has a cutting-edge, totally refrigerated and temperature-controlled 240,000-square-foot facility that Mr. Gates said is “just on the other side of the fence” from the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market. It maintains a single unit at the market that is used to sample the company’s line.
The company also offers an extensive traditional produce line that includes many varieties of tomatoes. Mr. Gates said that the tomato program includes vine-ripened, on-the-vine, hydroponic, Roma, mature-green, cherry and custom-packaged tomatoes. The company also handles specialty varieties like yellow, orange and pear tomatoes.
Logistically, Lancaster Foods has expanded tremendously over the years. “Today, we go from Florida to Massachusetts,” said Mr. Gates. “We continue to cover Washington, DC; Baltimore; and Virginia heavily. The ethnic food categories, especially Asian and Spanish, are still a strong hold for us, and it seems to grow continually. The demand for ethnic food items is particularly strong in the areas where we distribute.”
Lancaster Foods continually strives to be on the forefront of food safety and traceback initiatives. Mr. Gates said that one of the company’s high-level third-party audits is the British Retail Consortium audit, which is the global standard for food safety.
The company is also certified for organic handling, which requires that organic products not commingle with conventional produce. Organic inspectors go to the facility periodically to ensure it is doing what is required to maintain the certification. Lancaster Foods is also responding to the growing demand for chemical and pesticide-free foods.
It additionally continues to be a strong supporter of the Produce People Care food bank system.
“It is good to give back to the community in any way you can,” said Mr. Gates. “This is especially true when the produce would otherwise go to waste. Handling fresh produce is a major challenge, and I give the food bank a tremendous amount of credit for doing such a great job.”
Lancaster Foods imports from across North America and around the world. A satellite system installed by the company several years ago keeps the company, and its customers, informed of exactly where trucks are located at all times.
“We continue to add new products and to look at new packaging opportunities,” said Mr. Gates. “We’re doing sliced apples, salads and other greens, as well as whatever else makes sense for our company.”