Over the past five years, The Nunes Co. Inc. in Salinas, CA, has been methodically building its “Foxy Organic” brand, adding commodities and acreage to the mix each season.
“We have now reached the point where we can offer our customers our entire line-up of items both conventionally and under our organic label,” said Matt Seeley, vice president of marketing. “And we can do that 24/7, 365 days of the year.”
The firm, which is a full-line commodity producer of all the major vegetables, now has organic production of each crop in basically all of its production areas throughout the West including California, Arizona and Nevada. “It hasn’t always been easy,” said the longtime Nunes executive. “We’ve learned a lot over these past five years. In fact, it’s been a tremendous learning curve.”
Seeley said growing, distributing and marketing organic vegetables has its own issues and it is not just a case of planting the seed and watching it grow. Growing has its unique challenges as experts in conventional growing techniques using conventional crop protection tools have to learn how a whole new list of growing aids interacts with the crops. The goal of Nunes has always been to produce the same high level of quality in its organic packs as it is known for its in conventional output.
Seeley said the company’s approach has been well worth the effort as its organic sales continue to increase and they have led the company’s continued sales growth. “This isn’t a fad,” he said. “We believe the sale of organics is only going to continue to increase. There is a generational shift going on in America driven by the millennials. They are very interested in what they put in their bodies and want to know as much as they can about the food they eat. How’s it grown? Where does it come from?”
Not surprisingly, Nunes uses many different social media outlets to tell its story to these consumers and conduct promotions. From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram to Pinterest, Nunes interacts with the end users, giving them as much information as they want. These interactions are informational but also direct these users to the company’s website, which has even more information, including videos showing exactly how the products are produced, whether they are grown conventionally or organically.
In all of its promotions and information, the company takes great efforts to make no judgment as to the relative merits of conventional compared to organic produce, Seeley said. “We are by no means saying one product is better for you than the other or tastes better. We are all about choice. Our customers and the end users have the opportunity to buy each of our products organically or conventionally.”
Seeley said that while there typically is an organic premium both at f.o.b. and at retail, that is not always the case. Each organic item still follows the basic supply-and-demand rule. “At some points in the season, the supply of some organic items reach a critical mass and there is no difference between the price of that item whether it’s conventional or organic. At some times of the year, organic broccoli crowns are at the same price as conventional broccoli crowns. At other times of the year, when pest pressure is high, organic broccoli crowns are in tight supply and there is a big premium.”
Besides giving the company more items to sell to its existing customers, the advent of the organic line has exposed The Nunes Co. to many brand-new customers that specialize in organic products, Seeley said. “Certainly we are selling Foxy Organics to our list of longtime customers, including the retail powerhouses,” he said. “But there are retailers and wholesalers all over the country that cater to the organic trade that we weren’t selling before. These are brand-new customers. Finding who the players were and learning their needs was part of the steep learning curve.”