No ordinary apple.

Behind The Glass, Beyond The Box

Behind The Glass, Beyond The Box

Some companies fight for market share in a way that reinforces the boxes they are in. Other companies completely step out of the echo chamber.

When there are no walls to conform your ideas, innovation takes on new roots. You start a new game, build your own rules, become your own rival. In the centrifuge of today, propelled by the eye and the wallet of the consumer, the components of marketing and creation are cast into the light and require a deeper gaze—a look at all the parts that make up the whole. For companies like Pure Flavor®, these strategies and foundational stones are not just laid in vision, they are elemental.

It is under this new microscope that today’s fresh produce companies must learn to not only adapt—but thrive. And, lucky for us, the future is already fresh-friendly.

“The landscape is changing rapidly for a number of reasons: The product assortment is evolving, demand has significantly increased, competition can be fierce, and the capital investment and infrastructure needed to expand is skyrocketing,” President Jamie Moracci tells me. “When we look at our brand, we are no longer just a grower/marketer or sales company. Not really. We are actually a lifestyle company that grows greenhouse vegetables to fuel healthy lives. Yes, we grow, pick, pack, and sell, but our brand communication strategy is to go beyond the package, connect with consumers, and drive them into our retail partners looking for our product.”

Pure Flavor’s evolving connectivity with its buy-side customers and loyal consumer following is deeply embedded in its ability to execute at high levels with brand penetration—something that the company views as a living and breathing component of an overall mission and vision. This mission and vision is to support healthier lifestyles and remain a humble, trusted, and innovative partner priming the industry for sustainable growth.

Pure Flavor is an organism in constant evolution.

And that movement took on new energy nearly three years ago. Pure Flavor went through a rigorous brand revitalization to align with its strategic growth plans, providing a vehicle for the company’s continued progress and its willingness—and capability—to adapt and change.

“We needed to solidify the position that we weren’t just selling a box—or a thousand—of fresh greenhouse vegetables. We’re actively contributing to healthy lifestyles every single day. We don’t look at our business as just shipping another case; it goes far beyond that, and we wanted to ensure that belief was consistent from the seed to the shelf,” Jamie remarks. “We rebuilt our packaging strategy from the bottom up, honed our messaging to be honest, sincere, and factual, and created both retail and consumer-focused content that was relevant and engaging to the audience it was meant for.”

The eye-opening experience was the result of innovative forethought, but the process itself has been a mirror, one held up to the company to inform and develop the why behind its decisions and philosophies.

“Pure Flavor® is committed to supporting healthier lifestyles by providing greenhouse-grown vegetables that meet our exceptional quality standards, and to remain a humble, trusted, and innovative family-owned company that treats our growers, employees, and customers as valued partners in our sustainable growth. Our go-to market strategy is based on delivering the best that we grow, regardless of the season. Our family of growers understand the need to deliver the best, week in week out, our customers expect it so we work diligently, no matter the team, department, or facility, to make sure this happens.”

-Mission & Vision

“The brand revitalization project we went through really opened our eyes to being strategic beyond our growing strategies. It requires an integrated plan that is multi-faceted across many channels to connect with customers and consumers. Our sales and marketing teams are strategic in how they look at the business, it is not just about cases moved,” Jamie adds. “We do not conform to a checklist or box. The quota for growth does not have a ceiling.”

Add in major infrastructure projects in Georgia and Leamington, Ontario, to meet the demand for more product, and the holistic picture comes into focus even more clearly. Pure Flavor is not a “growth for growth’s sake” type company—every move is strategic and foreshadowing.

Bottom line? Pure Flavor offers differentiation to rival, and a resounding vision that only this trifecta of minds can uniquely produce. And execute.

“Our recipe for success is distinctive and rare. After 18 years in business, we have created a roadmap for our company and a brand that others may not have followed if they had been in our shoes,” he reflects. “Are we learning every day? Absolutely. Our teams are growing across all of our facilities no matter where they are located or the role they are in.”

In other words, every box I try and put Pure Flavor in, the team breaks out of it. The word innovation, Jamie adds, can be viewed loosely as “what new item are you creating” or “how are you packaging things differently.” But, to Pure Flavor, the team thinks innovation can take many different forms. For Pure Flavor, the team sees innovation as something that moves the industry forward, something that can be a game-changer.

These regerminating components have been key in evolving this industry trailblazer’s message, connection, and opportunities for growth through operational and product expansion—essential for Pure Flavor’s strategic execution. And Chief Financial Officer Jeff Moracci is one mind with a hand in this progressive plan.

“With a need to accelerate our internal acreage, we put together a multi-year plan in 2016 to lay the groundwork to support our growth. It not only involved building greenhouses to increase our production capabilities, but the greater need of adding varying degrees of technology to automate our operations,” Jeff shares with me. “Now, five years later, the plan is expanding to version 2.0 with even more acreage, more technology, and a greater emphasis on research and development.”

What I glean from Jeff’s incredible expertise is that innovation happens on multiple fronts. It is all pieces of a puzzle working cohesively and critically together to map out a vision.

“In order to satisfy the explosive demand of our customer base, we have embarked on an aggressive expansion plan in Leamington that will see us add 250 acres over five years. [...] Our retail and foodservice reach continues to experience significant growth that justifies the capital investments.”

-Jeff Moracci, Chief Financial Officer, Pure Flavor

The product of that vision? A continent-wide, three-country-strong facility footprint with more than 800 employees across all of its operations. The natural evolution of Pure Flavor’s business is to expand in a meaningful way.

“In order to satisfy the explosive demand of our customer base, we have embarked on an aggressive expansion plan in Leamington that will see us add 250 acres over five years. The production will be a combination of both lit and unlit crops that will produce a year-round supply of Pure Flavor product,” Jeff reveals. “Our retail and foodservice reach continues to experience significant growth that justifies the capital investments.”

With the addition of Pure Flavor’s new distribution center in southern Georgia, it has been able to vastly increase its distribution throughout the Southeast as a regional hub. Coupled with distribution centers (DC) in Leamington, Ontario; Romulus, Michigan; and San Antonio, Texas, Pure Flavor is also reducing food miles traveled by shipping from specific locations.

“Our facility in San Antonio serves as our Southwest hub for all inbound product coming in from Mexico on a daily basis,” Matt Mastronardi, Executive Vice President, reveals. “With strategically located facilities just like the one in San Antonio, we have the ability to ship more product faster, with next-day delivery for more than two-thirds of the country. The ability to create custom orders for our retail and foodservice partners at all distribution centers is key to delivering a heightened, superior level of service, no matter the season. With a vast variety of product options, we can fulfill all partner orders regardless of the location.”

The unprecedented growth for Pure Flavor in Peach County, Georgia, has been a boon to the business and, as Jeff notes, was all about supply, demand, and economics.

“We researched hundreds of sites in the U.S. and decided on South Georgia for a variety of reasons. Already rich in agricultural heritage, the build of a high-tech greenhouse facility in Georgia satisfied the immediate need for more year-round product at the 10,000-foot level. It also opens the door for new retail and foodservice markets, stronger distribution channels, and a regional growing program in the U.S. that we could take through the winter on a mass scale,” he says.

Using forward-thinking technology to grow year-round in Georgia, Pure Flavor put a two-fold strategy into play. The first component was to expand growing operations, product assortment, and reach to meet the increased demands from its retail and foodservice partners by removing the seasonality of the business to provide greater opportunities to service those in need, regardless of location. The second component includes the execution of developing an integrated, USA-grown program that reduces food miles and delivers fresh, flavorful greenhouse-grown tomatoes and cucumbers year-round.

“Fast forward three years and the facility is consistently delivering great, Georgia Grown and branded products. Our new distribution center is working nearly around the clock to ship to customers throughout the southeast, and we are creating a steady flow of job opportunities in a region that has a high degree of unemployment,” Matt says. “To top it off, we are actively involved in the local community with our Adopt-A-School program, as we donate fresh vegetables to primary schools each week.”

This multi-tiered approach to growth has the heart of a family-forward company along with the architecture of a well-engineered citadel. The combination is unique, but then again so is Pure Flavor.

On the engineering front, this robust expansion blueprint is not solely focused on significant capital investments, but forming strategic partnerships to expand Pure Flavor’s grower family. The evolution of the team’s business model is to have more owned acreage to complement Pure Flavor’s expanding network of resources. Georgia has been an essential element in helping this overarching vision become a reality.

“It is increasingly essential to offer year-round supplies, a need which has prompted us to evaluate region-specific needs and how quickly we can get the product to market. New products are helping fuel the need for increased acreage,” Jeff notes.

The beauty of what Pure Flavor brings to market lies in its proactive mindset and ability to flex ingenuity in a way that spurs demand instead of reacting to it. The Pure Flavor portfolio is a vehicle for Pure Flavor to layer in a very distinct aesthetic and product marketing strategy for its partners, that is completely different from what most companies traditionally do.

To put it simply, Pure Flavor is once again creating its own recipe for success.

What a wonderful way to grow. And, while anticipating growth is necessary—especially to prime the pipeline for the years ahead—it is also a great advantage to grow because your products and excellence are desired and coveted.

“Consumers are demanding, and so they should be. They want better varieties, more flavor, more choices—they want more information on where and how it was grown, how it was sustainably sourced, and most importantly, how can they use it,” Matt expresses, adding that as greenhouse vegetable growers, Pure Flavor’s goal is to consistently meet consumer expectations, regardless of the season. “As a consumer-facing brand, we have evolved into storytellers to help influence consumer decision making. Our transparency in explaining how products come to life instills confidence in consumer perception of what greenhouse growing is all about. You then layer in supporting content through packaging and a slew of strategic marketing initiatives to create awareness not only for the product, but the brand, and how our product impacts people’s lives.”

Product versatility has been key in this area, as having one tomato for every snack, sandwich, sauce, and salad is no longer a high bar for consumers. They want options, flavor, and differentiation.

“The key is in research and development. We trial an extensive variety of tomatoes every year—every color, shape, size, and flavor profile you can think of—in our trial facilities in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, trying to find something that will fit our customer’s needs. We see customers as two-fold, the retail and foodservice partner on the B2B side, to the end consumer on the B2C side. New varieties don’t just appear overnight, it can sometimes take years of trialing to determine the opportunity of new product ABC’s,” Matt says.

He pivots my attention from concept to execution, pointing out the launch of its new Cloud 9® Bite-Sized Fruity Tomatoes in February of this year.

“Pure Flavor® is a family of greenhouse vegetable growers who share a commitment to bringing A Life of Pure Flavor™ to communities everywhere. Our passion for sustainable greenhouse growing, strong support for our retail and foodservice customers, and focus on engaging consumers is built on a foundation drawn from generations of growing expertise.”

-Brand Statement

“Our teams spent years working on a variety that had specific characteristics that others did not. Yield, crop health, color, shape, flavor profile, and shelf-life all played a factor in delivering a better tomato experience to our customers,” Matt expresses. “Now, more than ever, we need to empower consumers to get back in the kitchen.”

This need prompted the development of Pure Flavor’s Craft House Collection. Promoting the tagline “grown for the chef in you,” the goal is to inspire consumers to create fantastic recipes with great products they can easily grill, bake, stuff, or even sauté. Revealing four offerings with unique flavor profiles, the Craft House Collection is versatile in its variety of applications.

The recently debuted Cloud 9 fulfills another need in the consumer basket today, while also raising the bar on what consumers will want from a tomato in the future. And, if you ask the Pure Flavor team, Cloud 9 will be a charcuterie board hero, hands down.

“This is not your everyday red grape snacking tomato that only gets tossed into a salad as a garnish or popped into your kid’s lunch box because they need a vegetable snack. This little gem is a game-changer when it comes to flavor,” Jamie says, turning the ace over in his mind. “This tomato presents a darker burgundy in color, tends to be smaller than your typical grape tomato, and packs a juicy fruity flavor when you pop it into your mouth.”

If flavor is the box in which the rules conform to taste, the Cloud 9 broke out of that box with its debut. Just ask my personal meals and flavor standards today.

Cloud 9, RedRoyals, Uno Bites, Craft House Collection, and Pure Flavor’s Snacking Series are just a handful of the ways the company is shifting away from traditional product marketing methods to creating multiple brands and families of products. Targeting specific consumer segments that have specific needs and interests is not just an afterthought for Pure Flavor, it is the lifeblood of its strategy around taste and quality. Pure Flavor’s research and data from search engines and web traffic highlight that consumer preference is becoming more and more targeted. There is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing.

“We create strategic content that is designed to generate double-rings in-store and help differentiate. But, more importantly, the strategic content is also there to reduce consumer confusion and better inform what products are best for what uses,” Matt adds.

It is amazing to think that this all started back in 2003, with three guys who simply knew produce and deeply believed they could change the way that consumers experience greenhouse fruits and vegetables.

“The funny thing is, we tell each other every year, there is so much opportunity in the marketplace if we stay the course we set on day one: Grow the business with the right products and people and everything else will fall into place,” Jamie reflects.

This simple sentiment can seem so ungraspable and idealistic at times, especially in the saturated echo chamber of marketing today.

But, if you ask me, Pure Flavor has already moved beyond the box, the herd, the traditional vision.

That echo you hear, it’s actually the consumer.

And what you are hearing is a resounding: Yes.