In all the attention being paid to the recall on the Dole salad product, our initial interview with Dole’s Eric Schwartz also contained this tidbit about Dole’s entry into the fresh-cut veg business:
Q: After the spinach crisis, you made the point that Dole was moving toward becoming more autonomous in salad production to have better control over the process. I understand that separately Dole is looking to do fresh-cut bagged vegetables and partner with River Ranch for the packaging. Is this the case?
A: On cut vegetables, it’s a very small market and River Ranch has a large established business in this category. Those kinds of vegetables, such as broccoli stems two to three feet off the ground, also have a very different risk profile than bagged lettuce. All bagged salads at Dole will be done in house.
It is an interesting expansion for Dole. River Ranch’s own brand is not a big player in this space, with only around 2.7 % market share. River Ranch does, however, produce a lot of private label.
We would like to see everyone in the industry, though, apply the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement metrics to all the vegetable acreage — especially in the Salinas valley. And Dole — as a leader in the industry — is perfectly positioned to make it happen by requiring it of all suppliers.
The truth is that we don’t know the cause of the contaminations we have had recently, and so we don’t really know if being two feet off the ground is a safety zone or is riskier. It seems until we have some better information, erring on the side of safety would be wise for everyone.