Sweeten your everyday!

Sensory Enchantment: A Q&A With Rick Alcocer, Senior Vice President of Fresh Sales, Duda Farm Fresh Foods

Sensory Enchantment: A Q&A With Rick Alcocer, Senior Vice President of Fresh Sales, Duda Farm Fresh Foods

The lights are dim. The low and continuous buzzing of people lost in conversation swirls around you. A heavy aroma of fresh cuisine fills the air. As every second passes, each of your senses is awakened one by one. First sight, then sound.




This is an experience that is truly embodied within the walls of the foodservice sector.

If home is where the heart is, then my place of residence is a corner booth toward the back of my favorite restaurant, adjacent to the bar. Good food has a way of bringing comfort to nearly any location; it is a magic that is certainly not lost upon my friends and me as we laugh and reminisce over a spread of delicious appetizers and cocktails dressed with the most beguiling of produce items.

To be in this moment is to understand the importance of sharing a meal. To embrace the opportunity to be together and recognize that food is one of the strongest tethers that not only uphold but generate our human connection.

With a wide-spanning portfolio of produce products, Duda Farm Fresh Foods is one of the industry forces helping to create this enchanting experience by supporting the mouthwatering menus of top-tier foodservice operators. Keeping its commitment to quality and innovation at the forefront of every move it makes, the supplier is dedicated to uplifting its partners with superior products and ensuring the ongoing vitality of the sector.

When I speak to Rick Alcocer, Senior Vice President of Fresh Sales, bringing high-quality items from the field to the plates of restaurant consumers seems so natural—like it is all in a day’s work for the grower. But, I am no fool to believe the provider’s success in both foodservice and organics is anything less than the result of extensive research, a dedicated team, and a resolute set of company values.

Trust me when I say this is one produce connoisseur everyone should be keeping their eyes on.

Peggy Packer: Rick, as we settle into this discussion, it is already clear that Duda Farm Fresh Foods has established itself as a formidable partner in the foodservice sector. What would you say are some key components of Duda Farm Fresh Foods’ vast portfolio of foodservice offerings, and how do they set the program apart in this constantly growing arena?

Rick Alcocer, Senior Vice President of Fresh Sales, Duda Farm Fresh Foods: For our foodservice partners, we offer all of our products! Everything from leafy greens to celery, radish, corn, cauliflower—you name it, we’ve got it available for foodservice. Duda’s foodservice program offers fresher products from multiple growing locations, including California, Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, and Florida. By providing year-round availability, we are able to make menu planning and sourcing easier for foodservice professionals who choose to partner with us.

We’ve recognized that all lettuces are key commodities in the foodservice sector. Whether they are included in a traditional salad bowl, used as a fancy garnish, or warmed and sautéed, almost every plate going out of the kitchen has some form of lettuce on it. To help restaurants meet this demand, Duda offers red leaf, green leaf, Iceberg, and Romaine lettuce as well as Romaine hearts. From citrus shrimp tacos paired with Southwest cream sauce and shredded Iceberg lettuce to a Green Goddess quinoa salad with chopped red leaf lettuce, scallions, and fresh lemon juice, the menu options for these products are endless.

In addition to that, we also have a very strong celery program, with proprietary seed varieties that guarantee top quality and flavor. Fresh-cut Dandy® celery utilizes a variety of processes to protect and extend the shelf-life of our products. From seed selection to transplanting, growing, harvesting, processing, and shipping, Duda Farm Fresh Foods ensures best practices to deliver unmatched freshness and quality to our customers worldwide.

"By providing year-round availability, we are able to make menu planning and sourcing easier for foodservice professionals who choose to partner with us.”

Rick Alcocer, Senior Vice President of Fresh Sales, Duda Farm Fresh Foods

PP: I don’t pride myself on being that great of a chef, but I can’t help but dream up some drool-worthy recipes as you list just a few of the many products that Duda has to offer. From what I understand about the company’s history, it seems that celery has been one of the major categories driving growth for Duda Fresh Farms since Andrew Duda took his first cart to market back in 1926. How has the company maintained its position as a pioneer in the category, and what benefits do Duda’s celery products provide foodservice operators who utilize them?

RA: Taste is one of the primary benefits of our celery program. Duda Farm Fresh Foods leads the world in research and development to naturally breed superior seed varieties for a difference consumers can taste. We have invested heavily in research and development, as well as worked alongside nature to perfect the process of growing the sweetest, crispiest, least stringy proprietary seed varieties available. Our research and processes give us the capability to grow in different regions of the United States without compromising the deliciously sweet flavor consumers enjoy.

Catering to various formats, we offer our retail and foodservice partners conventional and organic whole stalk celery, celery hearts, and celery sticks.

PP: Rick, I would bet a good amount of money that bringing quality products like Duda’s to the foodservice market requires a ton of work behind the scenes. Can you tell me more about some of the operational innovations and advancements generating increased momentum for the purveyor?

RA: First, Duda Farm Fresh Foods uses progressive processing by optimizing a highly innovative water jet cutting technology that eliminates the use of metal blades. This technique cuts our celery more smoothly—leaving fewer strings and pits—and locks in moisture, resulting in a higher-quality product.

We also have our own in-house freight expert and logistics team that doesn’t depend on the open truck market to cover delivered business. In addition to our own truck fleet, we have developed direct relationships with various trucking companies, which have dedicated specific trucks for our program. This has granted us a consistent truck supply, which means we can achieve on-demand deliveries and excellent customer service.

PP: That is an advantage that has surely come in handy amidst the many challenges posed to the foodservice sector—and the produce industry as a whole—by the pandemic, I would assume. How has Duda supported its allies since the beginning of the pandemic and through the ongoing pressures impacting the global supply chain?

RA: We are committed to remaining a reliable partner for our customers. As foodservice establishments continue to open up and rebound from the impacts of the pandemic, we want our customers to know that we are here to help and support them with whatever they need.

Going forward, we will continue to work with our partners to assist them through the current challenges they face regarding labor and logistics shortages. We are partners that understand the logistical and supply chain issues that are currently facing not only our industry, but our world as well.

The verbal expression of Rick’s admirable dedication rings in my subconscious as I think back to those extraordinary moments of enjoying a meal with my loved ones. What had already rendered itself as an almost otherworldly experience has now been granted even more grandeur. Duda Farm Fresh Foods’ commitment and expertise are akin to sorcery—a true mastery of providing consumers with a small taste of magic, a delicious descent into a mystical new world.

And it all begins with the first bite.