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Taylor & Fulton makes moves to stay ahead of the industry curve

Taylor & Fulton salesman Steve McCue with Robert Elliott, new head salesman, and partner Jim Grainger in the company’s Palmetto, FL, offices. (Photo by Chip Carter)

Robert Elliott, new head salesman for Palmetto, FL-based Taylor & Fulton Packing LLC, knows a thing or two about tomatoes. Before joining the company in September, he spent more than 30 years selling tomatoes for some of the industry’s best-known names.

Taylor & Fulton was founded in the 1940s by the late Jack Taylor. Partner Pete Fulton came aboard in 1953. In 2008, Jim Grainger, Brian Turner and Ed Angrisani took over the reins. Mr. Angrisani left in August, paving the way for Mr. Elliott to join.

“We’re very happy to have a veteran like Robert Elliott on-board, that we’re able to attract a man of his caliber and integrity,” Mr. Grainger said. “The game’s changing fast and we needed to get to the 21st century, get there and not waste time getting there, so we can be competing at the level we need to compete at. Robert wasn’t available initially when we decided to make the move, but for the direction I wanted to go and everybody involved at Taylor & Fulton wanted to go, when I explained who I was going to pursue, they all agreed he was the man. We met with Robert and agreed to make the move and go forward.”

Mr. Elliott said his first two months with the company have been “all pretty positive. I’ve been in this business a long time — 35 [or] 36 years — and know a lot of people. There are not too many people I can’t call and talk about things. A lot of guys who had stopped buying here are coming back. All salesmen talk to all the same people. It’s just a matter of who they’d rather do business with, all things being equal. I’m happy to be on board and making the change and moving forward.”

Part of the process includes improvements and updates to computer systems and facilities, with a continuing focus on food safety.

Said Mr. Grainger, “There are upgrades we’re making as we speak. We have food-safety programs in place, but as it gets more detailed and deeper, the upgrades we’ve made to our internal systems are certainly helping us stay at the front of bus rather than the back of the bus. We’ve made a few changes and upgrades to the packing line to be more efficient, the Roma shed as well, and we’ve added a few more gas rooms. Everything we’re doing is to, number one, be competitive, and number two, so our customers know our food-safety program is changing with the times. We’ve made changes to help every situation that we deal with in the tomato industry, food safety to labor to quality control. The cost of doing business is getting much greater, so we have to become more efficient. We’re looking at everything to maintain our quality, maintain our integrity and at the end of the day be more efficient and assure our customer that’s the safest product we can load on a truck and we’ve done everything we can to assure that.”

Mr. Grainger said Taylor & Fulton’s younger employees will benefit from Mr. Elliott’s experience and leadership.

“As far as training the next generation, whether it’s sales or someone on the farming end of it, for that generation to work under Robert complements every one of us. So we’re excited about it, our customer base is excited about it, we’ve had people say it’s a brilliant move. It’s all been good. We’re happy to say by Robert coming in here, it’s opened a few doors we couldn’t get into, some doors that got shut on us over the last couple of years have been reopened, so we’re excited about that,” Mr. Grainger said.