“Due to overwhelming demand across North America, we are pleased to announce significant production increases of our entire Artisan Series line-up of specialty and snacking produce,” Jim DiMenna, president of JemD Farms in Leamington, Ontario, told The Produce News. “Our Artisan series tomato acreage is being increased between four- and 10-fold, depending on the variety, for the 2013-14 season.”
DiMenna added that growing consumer demand for enhanced flavor profiles, unique colors, sizes and shapes are the main drivers of the rapid growth. JemD Farms launched the new Artisan series three years ago, “And we never projected this level of response,” he noted.
The company is currently building expansion acreage in Canada and Mexico, and construction is under way in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“We expect to be producing in Dublin, VA, in the summer of 2014,” said DiMenna. “This project is particularly exciting for JemD Farms. Not only is it our first U.S.-based greenhouse operation, but it will also be the location of our first organic crop. Although our organic crop selection process is still a few months away, we are very pleased with the response from our retail and foodservice partners about the concept.”
JemD Farms also jumped to the forefront with its packaging in recent times. Its proprietary basket clamshells are another driver for the growth and popularity of its Artisan Series line of produce.
“Sales were strong from the launch of the series, but demand really took off when we rolled-out the new basket clamshells,” explained DiMenna. “Generic, clear clamshells don’t exactly scream ‘premium produce’ to discerning consumers. We believe our two-piece basket clamshells are the produce industry’s equivalent to Tiffany’s blue jewelry boxes, Apple’s white packaging for iPods/iPads/iPhones or Bloomingdale’s Brown Bags. The basket clamshells have become synonymous with JemD Farms.”
The company was one of the first greenhouse produce companies to truly embrace traceability and it has been fully compliant with hybrid pallet tag printing capabilities at all of its locations. DiMenna said that when the Virginia greenhouse begins production, the first case rolling off its packing line will be fully traceable, just like every other case it has produced over the past three years.
He also noted some volume shift in JemD Farms’ customer profile due to some overall instability in the greenhouse industry in recent years.
“The past few years have been challenging for many greenhouse organizations, and the ripple effects are being felt in every corner of North America,” said DiMenna. “A higher level of understanding regarding the differences between high-tech production vs. other growing methods, combined with the demand for a consistent, large-scale, full line, greenhouse suppliers bode well for JemD Farms.”
The demand for locally grown is also boding well for JemD Farms today. It continues to have a strong presence in the greenhouse industry just as it does in the overall produce industry.
“Our response to the demand for local grown has been to add U.S. production acreage, open or expand our regional distribution centers and continue to invest in communities where we’re located,” DiMenna said. “Our strategically placed forward distribution centers and farms provide JemD Farms with direct shipping access to well over two-thirds of North America’s population within an eight-hour drive. It’s always been accepted in our organization that locally grown field-grown fruit and vegetable programs are deeply rooted within many communities across the U.S. and Canada.”
DiMenna served as chair of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association in 2012-13. In April at the CPMA annual convention, he passed the gavel to the incoming chair, Walt Breeden, director of sales and citrus category manager, Canada, for The Oppenheimer Group.
“We were thrilled with the convention outcome,” DiMenna said. “We had the most attendees, most exhibitors and we surpassed all of the budget forecasts for the convention. It was a really wonderful life experience for me to serve as chair, and I look forward to continuing to support the CPMA in every possible way.”