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Grower Direct gets new electronic cherry sorter, names new marketing director

Grower Direct Marketing LLC in Stockton, CA, exclusive sales agent for O-G Packing Co., has “hired a marketing person that will enhance our sales staff,” according to Don Walters, a partner in Grower Direct.

Daniel Moznett, the company’s new director of marketing, is “a real professional when it comes to the marketing aspect” of the company’s sales and marketing activities, Mr. Walters said March 29. “We are going to invest in being more marketing minded and having more consumer packs and value-added-type packaging available, along with reaching out to the marketing people” as well as the buying staff of Grower Direct’s customers.

09-CalCherries-GrowerDirectDaniel Moznett, Grower Direct’s new director of marketing.Mr. Moznett is partner and co-founder of a media production company and brand image studio called M Entertainment, which produces such programing as Public Television’s “Bringing it Home with Laura McInotosh.”

Previously, he was new media development director for Try Foods International.

“Recently, I have been creating campaigns for major packaged goods brands and thought it was about time to use that experience a little closer to home,” Mr. Moznett said in a written statement. “Grower Direct is a leader among produce marketing groups in California. Joining the best in the business and helping our customers know where we come from is very exciting to me. We are going to make a lot of noise in this industry very soon, and I look forward to this new opportunity.”

Another major development for the company this season is the installation of a new high tech electronic sorting line. “O-G, who is our packing facility, has made a substantial investment” in the machinery, Mr. Walters said. “They purchased Unitec technology from Italy that is going to provide our customers with more consistent color and sizing and a cleaner pack. That is being installed as we speak, and will be on line for the California cherry season.”

Grower Direct handles cherries grown from all California growing districts from Arvin in the south to Stockton-Lodi-Linden in the north. All of the cherries are brought to the O-G facility for packing, Mr. Walters said.

With the new equipment, “we can offer our customers more consistent color and more consistent sizing.” The equipment also sorts for defects, assuring “a cleaner pack.”

The consistent color “will really benefit us in the export markets,” he said.

Grower Direct has “a substantial amount” of early cherries, grown in the central and southern districts. “that is probably 35 percent of our overall production,” Mr. Walters said. Varieties there consist of mainly of Brooks, Tulares and Corals. The other 65 percent of the company’s cherry volume is is in the northern district, where “we have mostly Bings, some Corals and Rainiers.”

This year, “we will see some growth in our volume in the Rainiers,” he said. Rainiers are risky to grow because they are highly susceptible to rain and wind.

“But we have a couple of growers with fairly substantial plantings of Rainiers, and they have configured their orchards to where it helps protect the Rainiers against the wind. And they have had success in past years with the Rainier cherry, so we expect to see … maybe a 20 percent increase in our Rainier volume this year.”

The company will also see “more corals and less Brooks,” he said. When trees die off, as they do occasionally in the extreme heat of the southern San Joaquin Valley, growers have been inter-planting with Corals.

The company expects to see its first cherries of the season around April 27 to 29. “Our peak in the south will be somewhere around the 15th of May,” he said, and the northern district will peak around the end of May or beginning of June.

Grower Direct expects strong demand in export markets this year. China and Korea in particular, are newer markets that have “really opened up” as buyers of California cherries, and they are “stepping in and taking more volume each year,” he said.