John Gates, president of Lancaster Foods LLC in Jessup, MD, told The Produce News that the company continues to increase the amount of processing it does.
“We continue to process salads, but we are also engaged in numerous other fresh-cut and repacked items today,” he said. “A tremendous amount of our fresh-cut processed products go to foodservice operators, as well as retailers, for which we offer retail packs.”
Besides salads, LancasterFoods is now offering bagged spinach, bagged cooking greens and sliced apples, also for both retail and foodservice categories. It has particular emphases on branded and private label for the retail trade. The company’s label is “Lancaster Fresh.”
“Our produce also focuses on consumer packaging for retailers, such as tray-pack overwrap and clamshells,” said Mr. Gates. “The consumer demand for convenience is moving this trend in a similar dynamic to what the trade experiences with bagged salads 15 to 20 years ago. Now they can open a bag of cooking spinach or other greens that are ready to cook as opposed to having to buy these products in bulk, which has been the norm until now.”
Lancaster Foods distributes a full line of organic, specialty and ethnic produce items, as well as a full line of conventional products. The firm has a cutting-edge, totally refrigerated and temperature-controlled 240,000-square-foot cross-dock facility, which Mr. Gates said is “just on the other side of the fence” from the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market.
The company also offers an extensive traditional produce line that includes many varieties of tomatoes. Mr. Gates said the tomato program includes vine-ripened, tomatoes-on-the-vine, hydroponics, Romas, mature green, cherry and custom packaged tomatoes. The company also handles specialty varieties like yellow, orange and pear tomatoes.
Logistically, Lancaster Foods has expanded tremendously over the years.
“Today we have an operating range that spans the entire Eastern Seaboard, from New England to Florida, with a heavy focus on the mid-Atlantic region,” said Mr. Gates. “The ethnic food categories, especially the Asian and Hispanic populations, are still a stronghold for our company, and it seems to grow continually. The demand for ethnic food items is particularly strong in the areas where we distribute.”
Lancaster Foods continually strives to be on the forefront of food safety and traceback initiatives. He said one of the company’s high-level third-party audits is the British Retail Consortium audit for food safety. The company is also in compliance with the industrywide traceability initiative.
It is also certified for organic handling, which requires that products are not commingled with conventional produce. Organic inspectors go to the facility periodically to insure that it is doing what is required to maintain its certification. Lancaster Foods is also responding to the growing demand for chemical and pesticide-free foods.
The company sources from all U.S. growing regions as well as globally. A satellite system installed by the company several years ago keeps it, and its customers, informed of where trucks are located at all times.
“We continue to add new products and to look at new packaging opportunities,” said Mr. Gates. “New ideas and options are continually being considered and tested, and we move forward with new products as they fit well with the overall profile of our line.”