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G.O. Fresh stays on cutting edge in the Twin Cities

G.O. Fresh continues to meet and exceed customer expectations through a vigilant attention to detail and a commitment to operational excellence. The company, a premier processor of fresh pre-cut fruit and vegetables, is centrally located in Minneapolis.

Chief Executive Officer Patricia Greene and Chief Operating Officer Marylou Owen own the privately held business. These veteran businesswomen have assembled leadership and sales teams that work in partnership with their customer base for the benefit of everyone involved.

The company offers over 700 SKUs from its centrally located 45,000-square-foot facility. “We currently service a five-state area within a 350-mile radius of our plant,” Ms. Owen told The Produce News on Nov. 10. “We feel the cold chain is extremely important. And to that end, we have our own dedicated G.O. Fresh refrigerated trucks and dedicated G.O. Fresh drivers. We deliver to foodservice distributors, manufacturers and distribution centers. Our focus is the foodservice sector.”

G.O. Fresh’s product list is extensive. In addition to fruits and vegetables available on a year-round basis, the company also creates proprietary and customized blends of specialty salads, vegetable medleys, salsas and fruit combinations. “Our products are available in a wide range of standard cut styles and cut sizes,” the company states on its web site, www.gofresh-precut.com. “We also contract with customers to customize styles or cuts, or develop unique blends and mixes.”

Concern about food safety and traceability has been a foundation of the business since its inception. “We have had controls in place since starting in the pre-cut business, long before we officially became G.O. Fresh,” Ms. Owen stated. “We felt early on that it was the right thing to do and had the University of Minnesota work with us on guidelines over 30 years ago.”

Ms. Owen said that much has changed over the years. “We continually evolve and educate along the way,” she noted. “Our two industry trade associations, United Fresh and [the Produce Marketing Association], are instrumental in educating and advocating for the fresh-cut industry. We encourage those in our industry — regular, allied and university — to become involved.”

The company’s commitment to the highest food-safety standards includes Good Handling Practices, a Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points food-safety program, an in-house lab for testing and analysis, professional quality-assurance specialists and tamper-evident packaging that carries a best-by date. G.O. Fresh is third-party audited by AIB and has received a superior rating. Production equipment at the secure facility is made of stainless steel to allow for effective cleaning and sanitation.

Ryan Tonolli, G.O. Fresh sales and marketing director, said that the company is positioned for continued growth with its product line. “I see the continued trend of introducing additional produce items to the convenience and grab-and-go market,” he told The Produce News. “With the continued focus on health and wellness, being able to fulfill this demand with items that are beyond carrot sticks and apple slices will be important.”

He went on to say that fresh-cut produce also has pushed past the boundaries of lettuce blends and cut fruit. “A new size cut, blend, package or product demand is brought to our sales force every week,” he commented. “Operators are really seeing the value in having their produce arrive in a box where it is 100-percent usable with the highest quality and consistency.”

Restaurant owners increasingly are working to control food and labor costs. G.O. Fresh product helps them realize cost savings through reduced prep time and training, reduction of costs associated with waste removal, reduced equipment and maintenance costs, and reduced risk of injury.

“The average restaurant only makes about 3.5 to 4 cents per dollar,” Mr. Tonolli said. “With pending increases in employee healthcare costs and minimum wage, as well as commodity food prices being so unpredictable, our product can help bring some sanity to these challenges. By greatly reducing labor with the utilization of our products, as well as realizing some cost stability, restaurant owners can then concentrate on the important task of marketing and getting people in their doors.”