Taylor Farms, a major producer of value-added fresh vegetables based in Salinas, Calif., won the 12th annual Food Quality Award based on its focus on food safety and quality, employee training, and beneficial use of new technologies such as a clean wash and a data acquisition system. Mark Borman, president of Taylor Farms, and Jason Kawata, director of quality assurance, accepted the Award on behalf of their team on May 1 during a special reception at the 2013 Food Safety Summit in Baltimore, Md.
“I’m super proud of winning the Award and of our team here,” says Borman. “Food service operation customers worry about their own brand, so food safety is paramount.”
Some past winners of the annual Food Quality Award include Hans Kissle, Mastronardi Produce, Michigan Turkey Producers, Fieldale Farms, West Liberty Foods, Hormel Foods, Tyson Food, and Sysco.
“What brings us ahead is our allocation of resources,” comments Angelina Estrada, food safety technical support manager at Taylor Farms, a subsidiary of Taylor Fresh Foods Inc. “A great part of our commitment goes to resources such as equipment, chemicals, R&D, and getting self-motivated, qualified personnel.”
That has impressed David Charest, vice president of bioprotection at DuPont Nutrition & Health, which sponsors the Award. “Taylor Farms has made impressive investments in sustainable technology and training to improve both the quality and safety of their products,” says Charest.
Paul Grothe, produce vice president at Diversified Restaurant Systems Inc., a San Diego food consulting group that is responsible for all Subway store procurement, including Taylor Farms products, agrees. “Taylor Farms is always ahead of the game when it comes to food safety and the quality control aspect of everything they do. They’re probably one of the more innovative in staying on top of food safety,” comments Grothe.
And that goes beyond the company’s own facilities. According to Grothe, Taylor Farms hired a person in California who is solely responsible for going into Subway stores and teaching employees there how to handle produce. “They do a really good job with store visits, getting hands on with franchisees, and helping them tackle problems,” he explains. “There are usually quality problems when you’re handling produce. It’s the nature of the business.”
Privately held Taylor Farms was established in 1995 in Salinas. It operates there from April to November, and then moves its operations to Yuma, Ariz., from the end of November to the beginning of April to follow the growing season. The company makes value-added produce such as lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower that is washed, ready to eat, and sold to broadline distributors including Sysco, produce specialist distributors like FreshPoint, quick serve restaurants like McDonald’s and Subway, club stores like Sam’s and Costco, and casual dining restaurants like Ruby Tuesday and Chipotle.
Taylor Farms claims to be North America’s largest supplier of fresh cut fruits and vegetables to the food service industry, with a raw product harvest topping 1,800 acres per week. Some 22 million pounds of fresh cut vegetables are produced every week throughout all of its operations, with 12 million produced in California alone. Taylor Farms sources raw materials from 17 U.S. states and Mexico, and has 12 processing plants across North America, 11 of them in the U.S. and one in Mexico.
Investing in Technology
The company recently started using SmartWash, a food wash solution it developed to help prevent cross contamination. It also installed a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system to monitor its processing room floor in real-time for parameters such as temperature in cold storage, the distribution warehouse, and in areas specified by its hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) program.