Peruvian Onions

Growing Against the Grain

Growing Against the Grain

I’m sure many of us, especially in the year 2022, know what it’s like to live and die by the email. This convenient form of communication has continuously bridged the gap between countries, industries, companies, you name it. It’s no wonder such a service has become a staple in our day-to-day lives.

Even as I sit at my desk on a Tuesday afternoon to outline this article, a small icon sits in the corner of my laptop screen with a steadily rising number urging me to click and find out what I may be missing.

Companies that have adapted to this tech-forward method of business and found ways to thrive despite the transformation of face-to-face interaction are proof that fresh produce is not immune to this shift in communication. In the 21st century, sales can be made through a screen—and they often are.

However, there is something to be said about those who choose to go against the grain, differentiating themselves with a proven approach to flourishing in fresh produce. Take LIV Organic™ Produce, for example: a vertically integrated supplier of organic citrus, potatoes, squash, and onions whose dedication to remaining a reliable partner trumps the convenience of a quick email conversation.

“Produce is in real-time,” Anthony Innocenti, Managing Partner, imparts to me as we explore this idea on an early morning phone call. “Nowadays, everyone strongly relies on email, and unfortunately, produce has fallen into that trap as well. Produce was built on human interaction because of the ever-changing variables in our industry. I was trained by the old school produce peeps who didn’t use email, and everything was done instantaneously. This is one of the key benefits of LIV Organic. A majority of our communication is still done by phone, and I think that demonstrates our respect for the buyers out there. There are no delays, nothing rolled over into the next day. Everyone on our staff is empowered to make the most informed decisions in the best interest of our partners on the same phone call. We’re always on it, even if that means answering calls at two, three, or four o’clock in the morning.”

Immediately, I think back to my own tired eyes browsing my inbox at 7 a.m., and LIV Organic’s commitment to standing as a strong, reliable ally for its retail partners becomes even clearer. As some companies undergo strategic transitions to adapt to a more mechanized future, this supplier is taking the road less traveled. This is not to say LIV Organic is not harnessing the might of technological advancements where it sees fit, but the company has tactically achieved the perfect balance between tech and human experience.

While doubling down on the strengths that have brought the brand to its current position in the industry, LIV Organic’s dynamic business model also grants the company a competitive advantage when it comes to fulfilling retail demands across the categories it serves.

“LIV Organic, along with our tenured grower partners, is committed to sustainable farming for years to come,” Anthony divulges. “Being the sole grower, shipper, and distributor also means we always know what’s going on from start to finish, from the moment the first seeds go into the ground. This is a big deal because when supplies are limited, we are still able to fulfill our orders in total. Customers lean on us because we are known for providing this reliability. Even when supplies get tight or erratic, we stay the course.”

Further elevating LIV Organic as a premium partner for grocers, the retail-focused supplier also deviates from the increasing industry norm by going straight to its customers with unique opportunities and promotional planning. Harnessing a well-rounded operation and an extensive knowledge of its categories, the organic producer is able to map out a direct path to increased purchases, substantially benefiting its allies in the retail sector.

“We are a very proactive—not reactive—company,” Anthony prides. “We have a strong retail presence, and we are always working behind the scenes to continue increasing what we are doing. We don’t wait for our customers to come to us; we go to them. I think that’s the big difference. At LIV Organic, our goal is to make retailers’ jobs easier by helping them plan without having to ask us. We do our homework and completely set it up for them, so they can focus on increasing sales.”

Not only does the fresh producer place a heightened value on its retail partnerships, but LIV Organic also provides the ultimate support to its grower network, which plays a vital role in the company’s ability to guarantee 52-week fulfillment. By upholding its strong grower partnerships and making key investments in their operations, the supplier wields a unique edge across its four major categories.

“We are there for our growers through thick and thin. We don’t just drop them if they don’t have a great crop one year, because that’s not a partnership,” Anthony continues. “We frontload major dollars on all of these crops to ensure our growers have the resources to buy seeds and supplies. Our growers are a huge part of what we do because our network is what allows us to have constant fulfillment, giving us an edge up on competitors.”

Another key facet of LIV Organic’s role as a supply-side partner is its high level of transparency, which takes its allies beyond cell phones and computer screens to get a closer look at its in-depth processes and operations.

“Customers lean on us because we are known for providing this reliability. Even when supplies get tight or erratic, we stay the course.”

Anthony Innocenti, Managing Partner, LIV Organic™ Produce

“We have a complete open door policy on our packing houses. Any one of our growers can come at any given time and watch their fruit be packed,” explains Anthony. “This really makes our growers feel valued because there’s no disconnect. In addition to getting weekly updates, they have the chance to see it for themselves.”

LIV Organic’s vertically integrated model, paired with its reputation for reliability, is part of the reason its programs have seen such impressive success, leaving the company well-positioned to continue meeting consumer and retail needs. Its expansive portfolio brings top-quality organic produce to shelves, and the buy-side has even more opportunities in store as the supplier unveils the advancement of some of its staple programs.

One significant program expansion currently taking root is the company’s foray into the conventional space, as LIV is welcoming conventional Navel oranges to its lineup.

With this addition, the grower-shipper-distributor is looking to complement its year-round organic citrus program while also streamlining loading opportunities for current partners that support LIV in the full citrus category organically.

“This expansion of our portfolio is guided by consumer demands as they request conventional fruit, as well as buyers who are consolidating their time and have asked us if we’ve ever thought about delving into conventional citrus,” notes Anthony.

LIV Organic is also arming buyers with organic red, white, sweet, and yellow onions, as the company has secured additional acreage to help solidify the fulfillment of its 52-week supply.

“We’re also very excited about potatoes this year,” says Anthony, pointing to another category buyers should be on the lookout for. “Not only do we have increased acreage across all three organic varieties—reds, Russets, and yellows—we are also ramping up production on Fingerling potatoes and baby potatoes. When it comes to these products, we have the ability to do any size pack, as well as custom private label.”

Last, but definitely not least, Anthony turns my attention to yet another core category for LIV Organic: squash.

“The fall season is a great time for retailers to promote our Southern California-grown organic hard squash. This crop is produced in a microclimate that creates some of the finest hard squash in the country. While some growers may opt for varieties with higher yields and less flavor, we have worked in the other direction to truly grow a premium piece of squash. Our Southern California squash is rotated on the vines by hand before it’s cut and fully cured to ensure maximum uniformity in color. Yes, there is a higher cost involved in this process, but it sells better and has a much more appealing flavor.”

Each of the company’s SKUs is available under the LIV brand or can be packaged for custom private label products, a move that further plays on the company’s differentiation factors and maximizes its reach in the produce department.

Try wrapping all of that up in an email!

As Anthony makes clear to me, more exciting growth lies in LIV Organic’s future, especially as the organic category witnesses a steady rise.

“We continue to see steady growth in organics, which puts us in a really good position,” he shares. “We are a relatively young company who, thankfully, has represented our growers well. We are seeing strong growth based on the premium products we pack. Because of our very consistent supply chain, fulfillment, and core values, we are probably ahead of the curve in that aspect of growth.”

While the road more traveled often houses a clearer footpath with fewer obstacles, my eyes tend to look in the other direction, at the trailblazers who have powered through such challenges for the benefit and success of their brand.

LIV Organic has built its foundation on the road less traveled. This industry innovator is forever going against the grain, never afraid to go the extra mile. And by doing so, the company has placed itself on a ceaseless path to brilliant, long-term business.