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East Coast Fresh Cuts continues retail fresh-cut line expansion

East Coast Fresh Cuts, the fresh-cut division of Coastal Sunbelt Produce, is located a few miles from the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market in Savage, MD. Dave Zeleznik, vice president of East Coast Fresh Cuts, told The Produce News that the company, which in the past sold predominantly to the foodservice sector, is now focusing just as strongly on the retail side.

Ross Foca, newly appointed president of East Coast Fresh Cuts, and Dave Zeleznik, vice president of East Coast Fresh Cuts. Mr. Foca was previously the chief financial officers of its parent company, Coastal Sunbelt Produce.
“We started marketing to the retail side several years ago, and it has really kicked in for us,” Mr. Zeleznik said. “Our ‘Fresh Cut’ fresh salsa line expands by items every year. The original salsa we offered now sells in the millions of pounds each year. New items this year are Carolina salsa and Chesapeake salsa.”

The Carolina salsa has a little vinegar flavor and includes fresh cabbage. The Chesapeake salsa has an apple vinegar and Chesapeake-type seasoning. Another recent addition to the “Fresh Cut” salsa line is the Southwestern salsa. It includes 13 fresh-cut vegetables and herbs in a custom blend of chipotle seasoning. The line now includes nine individual flavors, all of which are naturally low in fat and carbohydrates, and the products do not contain preservatives.

East Coast Fresh Cuts also continues to focus on precut mixes that include salads, coleslaws and vegetables, including onions, carrots and celery. It also provides many custom blends for foodservice and retail customers that offer signature-style salads and mixes. One customer alone orders 500 pounds of one particular mix per week from the company.

“Our current SKU count is in the hundreds per day,” said Mr. Zeleznik. “In our experience, the foodservice side cut back a little on fresh-cut products during the recession, but the retail business picked up. The analogy was that everyone was continuing their same buying habits at the grocery stores, but they were cutting back on dining out. But people still didn’t have time to cook, so they were buying fresh-cut items to help them save time.”

East Coast Fresh Cuts distributes heavily in the Mid-Atlantic region — in New York state and west to the tidewater areas of Virginia and Pittsburgh. It ships via third-party handlers from New England south into North Carolina and South Carolina.

Mr. Zeleznik announced a recent reappointment at the company. “Ross Foca has been appointed president of East Coast Fresh Cuts,” he said. “Ross was previously the chief financial officer of our parent company, Coastal Sunbelt Produce.”

The company focuses as strongly as possible on the burgeoning locally grown movement. Mr. Zeleznik said that providing locally produced product is easy in the summer months because most of the company’s produce comes from some of the numerous local sources.

“We even backhaul on our own trucks,” he added. “Local product is more of a challenge from late fall into early spring, but even then we’re able to take advantage of local greenhouse and hothouse product, so we’re able to maintain some local presence in the dead of winter for customers who want it.”

East Coast Fresh Cuts totally renovated its web site in the past year, and it is currently looking into social media venues to help broaden its scale.

“Our 169,000-square-foot facility now has 120,000 square feet of cooling space,” said Mr. Zeleznik. “We’re enjoying steady growth, while always focusing on our high level of customer service. As we grow, we maintain our spirit of a small company while taking advantage of the opportunities that being a large company affords us.”