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C.H. Robinson Launches Our World Organics Line

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 14, 2007

C.H. Robinson has gradually put together a line of boutique brands. In addition to Fresh 1, it also markets apples under the Mott’s brand, citrus under the Tropicana brand and grapes under the Welch’s brand. Add in a private label program, and it is one of the largest branded marketers in the country.

Now C.H. Robinson, demonstrating it is in sync with all that its customers are thinking about, has announced a new brand:

C.H. ROBINSON INTRODUCES NEW ORGANIC LINE

SUPPORTING HEALTHY LIFESTYLES AND SUSTAINABILITY

Our World™ Organics Committed to Promoting
Health, Wellness and Sustainability

Responding to consumers’ desires to provide healthy, convenient foods to their families, while being a good steward to the earth and its resources, C.H. Robinson Company (“C.H. Robinson”) is introducing a new line of fresh organic products. Our World™ Organics will debut at the 2007 Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit International Convention and Exposition in Houston, TX.

As the name suggests, Our World™ Organics not only promotes healthier lifestyles and environmentally-friendly products, it supports activities that lead to long-term sustainable agricultural practices aimed at minimizing the impact on the environment. Over the next several years, Our World™ Organics will utilize C.H. Robinson’s extensive relationships with growers and transportation providers to build a network of regional and local growers who can support the brand and its mission. Sourcing produce locally can help the freshest products make it to consumers’ tables, fulfill consumers’ desires to buy locally, and reduce food miles in the process. As part of its mission, Our World™ Organics will also donate a percentage of net profits each year to organizations dedicated to organic farming or sustainable agriculture initiatives.

Retail customers can expect a full line of organic products, including row crops, citrus, carrots, potatoes and onions, to be available for shipment in mid-November. Each category — vegetables, fruit and value-added, is packaged in its own unique color for quick consumer recognition. As technology and materials become available, the goal is to migrate packaging to bio-degradable, environmentally-friendly materials.

Our World™ Organics is also committed to helping its retailers position themselves as an organic resource by providing support to market the brand. Marketing materials may include such vehicles as advertising, magazines, billboards and in store point-of-sale.

Certainly someone at C.H. Robinson has its pulse on the trends. All in one brand C.H. Robinson proposes to:

  1. Promote Healthier Lifestyles
  2. Market Environmentally Friendly Products
  3. Incorporate Sustainable Agricultural Practices

Plus the hottest trend of all right now — Locally Grown:

Over the next several years, Our World™ Organics will utilize C.H. Robinson’s extensive relationships with growers and transportation providers to build a network of regional and local growers who can support the brand and its mission. Sourcing produce locally can help the freshest products make it to consumers’ tables, fulfill consumers’ desires to buy locally, and reduce food miles in the process.

Plus the company promises to donate a “percentage of net profits” to promote organic and sustainable farming.

And it didn’t forget about the packaging:

As technology and materials become available, the goal is to migrate packaging to bio-degradable, environmentally-friendly materials.

Plus the vaunted C.H. Robinson retail support team expects to be helping “…retailers position themselves as an organic resource by providing support to market the brand.”

It is a big undertaking, and we hope C.H. Robinson isn’t setting itself up for criticism when consumer advocates note that it isn’t able to always do all these things, and certainly not all at once.

Although we wish C.H. Robinson would drop the “Food Miles” language as that has now been clearly demonstrated to have no relationship to anything important and is just a marketing term, we are enormously impressed at the scope of C.H. Robinson’s ambition and its willingness to undertake a great deal to assist its customers.

The truth is C.H. Robinson has been aware of many of these trends for years and, although owning its own brand is probably for the best, it is really Plan B.

Back in 2005, C.H. Robinson was preparing to serve this market by buying FoodSource which, as one of its assets, had the right to sell fresh produce under the Newman’s Own Organics label. As they said on the FoodSource web site:

Newman’s Own® Organics chose to partner with FoodSource to launch their fresh produce line in 2005. We have established a Newman’s Own® Organics Fresh Produce Division dedicated solely to the marketing, sales, and distribution of Newman’s Own® Organics Fresh Produce.

FoodSource was selected by Newman’s Own® Organics because of our extensive experience with quality organic private label programs. We were selected to ensure quality produce and consistent supply. Our organic knowledge has made it possible for the Newman’s Own® Organics Fresh Produce line to expand beyond salads and carrots to encompass a full line of fruit, vegetables, and value-added items.

Nobody has ever spoken publicly about what happened. But the last thing on the Newman’s Own Organics/Fresh Produce web site was a report on the spinach outbreak a year ago.

Although Newman’s Own Organics was not implicated in the outbreak, soon thereafter the whole project shut down. We doubt this was C.H. Robinson’s idea, but C. H. Robinson isn’t the type of company to let a disappointment such as that stand in its way.

If it couldn’t buy a good brand in this space, it will just have to make one from scratch. And from its announcement, it plans to make a great one.

It is that kind of “can do” attitude that has made C. H. Robinson such a fierce competitor.

Best of luck to C.H. Robinson on the new launch.

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