2019 Refrigerated Foods Processor of the Year: How Bonduelle Fresh Americas leads the pac to freshness
Bonduelle Fresh Americas, Irwindale, Calif., was named Refrigerated & Frozen Foods' 2019 Refrigerated Foods Processor of the Year.
It was 1969 when founder Dennis Gertmenian prepared his first customized fresh-cut salad order. Pressed for time, Gertmenian bought French knives, cutting boards and a bathtub for washing the produce, and prepared and delivered customized orders on a regular basis.
By 1978, the company, then called Ready Pac Foods, entered the retail market with its patented Aqua Pac packaging, and in 1990, became what is said to be the first company to bring European salad blends to the U.S. market. From there, Ready Pac created the “pillow pack” for bagged salads and a proprietary “crisp” packaging for bagged salads. In 2001, it pioneered the triple wash system, and remains a leader in executing environmental health and safety initiatives.
Then, in February 2017, Bonduelle, France, acquired Ready Pac, enabling the Irwindale, Calif.-based produce supplier to benefit from a greater level of investment in growth, innovation and global reach while helping Bonduelle expand its fresh business into the United States.
CLICK HERE to tour the company’s approximately 472,000-square-foot Irwindale plant!
Then, Ready Pac changed its name to Bonduelle Fresh Americas, and today, produces a wide array of fresh-cut, ready-to-eat salads and vegetables from one of the company’s four USDA-certified and QAI organic-certified processing plants—Florence, N.J.; Jackson, Ga.; Swedesboro, N.J.; and the Irwindale headquarters. Bonduelle Fresh Americas also maintains an agricultural facility in Salinas, Calif., and a sales office in Bentonville, Ark.
Here’s how Bonduelle Fresh Americas, recipient of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ 2019 Refrigerated Foods Processor of the Year award, is leading the “pac” in delivering on-trend, better-for-you products.
Leading the “pac”
What separates Bonduelle Fresh Americas from the “pac” is its strength in customer service, food safety and category expertise.
“We believe that plant-based food is a way to improve nutrition and preserve our planet’s resources,” says Mary Thompson, the company’s newly appointed chief executive officer. “As a consumer brand, Ready Pac Foods represents the brand’s mission to give people the freedom to eat healthier with fresh, convenient, satisfying and delicious products and fresh meal solutions.”
Bonduelle Fresh Americas produces a wide array of fresh-cut, ready-to-eat salads, fruits and vegetables sold in retail and foodservice channels under the Ready Pac brand name.
In 2003, Bonduelle Fresh Americas created the single-serve salad category with new Bistro Bowl salads, which are restaurant-inspired, single-serve salads for on-the-go consumers.
In September 2014, Refrigerated & Frozen Foods named Ready Pac a Processor to Watch in 2015, and in November 2016, Ready Pac placed second in Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ 2016 Best New Retail Products contest for its organic chopped salad kits.
Company: Bonduelle Fresh Americas
Parent Company: Bonduelle
Headquarters: Irwindale, Calif.
Top Executive: Mary Thompson, chief executive officer
Types of Products: Produce, refrigerated salad, refrigerated salad kits
No. of Employees: 4,000 company-wide
Distribution: Nationwide, Canada
Markets: Retail, foodservice
Other product lines include elevᾹte, what is said to be the first single-serve organic/superfood salad on the market; Ready Snax, which are refrigerated fresh snack kits that feature fresh fruit or vegetables and a better-for-you side like nuts, hummus or yogurt; and other bagged salad kits and blends.
“Bonduelle Fresh Americas is the only company to offer seasonal, limited-time-only salads,” says Thompson. “[For example,] our Ready Pac Foods brand first introduced its Limited Edition Bistro salad lineup in 2016 to provide consumers with fresh, peak-of-season ingredients and exciting new varieties. Our executive chef and innovation team are always on the lookout to improve existing and developing new products that win with our consumers and customers every time.”
In August 2016, Bonduelle Fresh Americas teamed up with Domino’s Pizza, Ann Arbor, Mich., to deliver pre-packaged salad options to customers nationwide.
And, just last year, Bonduelle Fresh Americas introduced Bonduelle Fresh Picked single-serve salads in the Canadian market, what is said to bring fresh meal solutions crafted specifically for Canadian consumers’ tastes with complete proteins like chicken, ham, cheese and bacon.
Other new product innovations include the Ready Pac Foods Sweet & Spicy Korean Chopped Salad Kit, an Asian-inspired salad kit featuring romaine lettuce, Napa and red cabbages, crisp vegetables, puffed brown rice and black sesame seeds, tossed in a Gochujang vinaigrette. And, the Ready Pac Foods Limited Time Offering (LTO) Bistro Salad Collection features more plant-based salads with seasonally-inspired recipes.
Bonduelle Fresh Americas’ organic chopped salad kits, what are said to be the first of its kind on the market, placed second in Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ 2016 Best New Retail Products contest.
Fresh foods, fresh packaging
While Bonduelle Fresh Americas’ tagline may be “creating a better future through plant-based foods,” the company also strives to preserve the planet and enhance sustainability practices.
For instance, it engages with suppliers to promote corrugate that is recyclable, made of recycled content and/or certified by the Sustainable Forestry Industry for wood and fiber-sourcing materials. Its Bistro bowls and clamshells contain post-consumer recycled material, the paper sleeves and stretch wrap are made from 100% recycled content and the forks consist of 70% recycled content. And, Bonduelle Fresh Americas is working with a multi-stakeholder group to encourage a circular product lifecycle model for PET thermoform packaging.
“Bonduelle Fresh Americas is at an exciting juncture with sustainability,” adds Thompson. “[In 2018], Bonduelle announced the aspiration to become a B Corp-certified company, an undertaking that truly reflects our identity and commitment to creating a better future through plant-based food. To get us there, we are currently developing a comprehensive 2025 corporate social responsibility roadmap. These strategic planning efforts will help us prioritize material risks, opportunities and stakeholder concerns; allow us to formalize our environmental and social goals; and enable us to right-size future projects and initiatives to create shared value for our employees, investors, customers, consumers and society more broadly. We expect the strategy, targets and subsequent activities to cover the full gamut of sustainability (i.e. carbon reduction, greener packaging, responsible sourcing, sustainable agronomy, employee engagement, corporate citizenship, etc.).”