An innovative approach to research and development. Strong support for environmental protection and sustainability. A powerful commitment to food safety and quality. Dedication to customer service and satisfaction. Those ingredients earned Mastronardi Produce, a distributor of fresh fruits and vegetables, the 10th-annual Food Quality Award.
Sponsored by DuPont Qualicon, the award was presented by this magazine at a reception in Washington, D.C., on April 20 during the Food Safety Summit Expo and Conference.
“Recognizing companies like Mastronardi Produce for taking a proactive approach to protecting our food supply is something we look forward to each year,” Marcos Cantharino, global business director of DuPont Qualicon, told attendees at the award ceremony. “As recipients of the Food Quality Award, these companies exemplify commitment in action.”
“We have a moral and ethical obligation to do the right thing and always strive for the highest standards of food safety and food quality,” said Joseph Darden, Mastronardi’s vice president for food safety, in accepting the award on behalf of the company. “And when it comes to sustainable practices, from the growing stages to the packaged product on the shelf, our company reuses, reduces, and recycles at every opportunity.”
Company President Paul Mastronardi also emphasized the theme of food safety. “Mastronardi Produce is committed to food safety and food quality,” he said. “We have a solid team of dedicated professionals leading our food safety department and maintaining the programs that continue to keep us ahead of the game. Our goal is to provide the highest level of food safety and quality and to continuously exceed government requirements. Our mandate is to constantly be proactive.”
In earning the 2010 award, Mastronardi Produce joins a distinguished list of previous winners, including Michigan Turkey Producers, Fieldale Farms, West Liberty Foods LLC, Hormel Foods, Beef Products Inc., Tyson Food Safety and Laboratory Services, SYSCO, Franklin Foods, Hygaard Fine Foods Ltd., and East Balt Commissary.
What was the most important facet of the winning entry for 2010? “I think it was the overall demonstration of our unwavering commitment to food safety, sustainability, and customer satisfaction, while maintaining competitive business results when there was economic uncertainty,” Darden explained. “Mastronardi Produce has continued to grow its business. We have a strength embedded in our corporate values and culture. We have a dedicated staff and a company driven by business excellence. All these things came together.”
The judges recognized the value of Mastronardi’s innovative application of emerging technology. As one put it, “There has been significant investment in cutting-edge technology and innovative systems. Performance improvement was evident through quantifiable results with strong environmental impacts. All aspects of the business appear to be aligned towards producing high-quality, safe food within a sustainable environment.”
Based in Kingsville in the Canadian province of Ontario, Mastronardi’s main business focuses on year-round distribution of tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, along with specialty and fresh organic product categories, distributed under nine brand names. The company also distributes fresh seasonal eggplant and strawberries. Last year, Mastronardi added a variety of new vegetables and fruits, from asparagus and spices to melons and pineapples, to its product range.
Owned by the same family for four generations, the firm has distribution centers in Michigan, Florida, California, and Canada and greenhouse facilities in Illinois, Colorado, and Canada. Those locations provided Mastronardi Produce with sales of more than $400 million last year, about 80% of them in the United States.
Investment in the research and development and equipment necessary to introduce new technology on a continuing basis is a major focus for the company. In addition to overseeing all aspects of the safety and quality of its products—“from farm to fork”—the food safety department undertakes regular capital investments. The introduction of new technologies and extra products “is part of the long-term business plan; it’s critical to our strategy and part of the passion we have,” Darden explained. “It’s what separates us from the competition and part of what we are—constantly being on the leading edge of new technologies, being more efficient with less cost, and being more innovative.”