Boston Fresh LLC

Value-added produce programs for foodservice customers in the Northeast
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Elizabeth Towne

Boston Fresh LLC is a value-added produce wholesale operation, headquartered just outside of Boston and serving foodservice customers throughout the Northeast. Although the company opened its doors less than a year ago, Boston Fresh is already making its presence known in the wholesale produce market. By partnering with Milwaukee-based Manglio & Company, Boston Fresh now has the backing to offer whole and split-case produce, tomato repacking, custom packaging and private labeling services, as well as a newly added fresh-cut operation.

“What really sets us apart from others in this business is we sell programs – we can tailor products to exactly what our customer needs,” says Charlie Nano, general manager of Boston Fresh. “If they want 10 cases of lemons and a fresh cut fruit salad, mixed with pineapple, starfruit and papaya, we’ll do it and we’ll find the package and labeling for them. It’s not just a generic ‘this is what we have, take it or leave it’ kind of thing.”

But success in the produce business doesn’t come easily. “The market is constantly fluctuating; prices are so up and down,” says Charlie. “You have winning weeks and there are other weeks where you just miss the market on pricing.”

Long-running relationships

The best way to guarantee the highest quality product, at a fair price, is maintaining relationships with growers and suppliers. “We have great relationships with farmers, who we buy direct from, and vendors in the New England Produce Center, which helps assure we receive safe, quality products,” says Charlie.

Many of the relationships Boston Fresh relies on today have been cultivated over generations, beginning with Charlie’s father, Bob Nano, the founder of Boston Tomato & Packaging LLC, Boston Fresh’s sister company. Boston Tomato is based in Chelsea, Massachusetts, located within the massive New England Produce Center. “When we started Boston Fresh, it made sense to move into our own production facility, which includes 50,000 square feet of cold-storage warehousing and 10,000 square feet of office space, and keep the retail side [Boston Tomato] in Chelsea because it’s a prime location,” explains Charlie.

“I founded Boston Fresh in September 2014, but I’ve grown up around produce and my father’s business,” continues Charlie. Boston Tomato is a regional leader in fresh tomatoes, fresh herbs, specialty produce and vegetables, all of which Bob practically built from scratch.

From working a produce pushcart to selling tomatoes at DiMare Fresh Produce, Bob learned the business and built connections. When Boston Tomato came up for sale he bought out half of the company from the original owner and in 2009, purchased the rest of the shares. Today, Boston Tomato has 65 employees and six bays at the New England Produce Center.

Boston Fresh exists as its own company, supplying foodservice accounts, including major names such as Olive Garden and Qdoba Mexican Grill. The two businesses’ relationships bode well for them the competitive marketplace. “Boston Tomato serves produce distributors, food service companies, restaurants, independent grocers and retail grocery warehouses, while we’re really honing in on large foodservice accounts and growing the fresh-cut operation,” says Charlie.

Custom-fit solutions

Boston Fresh has quickly made a name in the produce industry by offering tailored orders, custom packaging and labeling solutions as well as bulk shipments supporting foodservice clients. “There’s really no one in this market doing quite the same thing,” says Charlie. “We have competitors, but they’re not doing everything we do with the wholesale side, split repacking and fresh-cut fruit options. Some companies do strictly vegetable or leafy green cutting, but we’re doing it all, as well as bulk shipments.”

Charlie says the goal is to be a one-stop-shop for produce. “Whatever a customer likes, we’ll find a way to make it happen,” he assures. “We’re trying to cover all bases, whether it’s a ready-to-eat product or a small-break pack, or a full wholesale case; we’re offering all of that with the commitment to food safety and traceability in mind.”

Committed to food safety

Perfecting its supply chain, with food safety and traceability at the forefront, has been a process for the new company. “When we’re buying directly from the farm, we need to ensure our farmers are certified and the same goes for the sales outlets in the market; they all have to have their audits in place,” explains Charlie. “This isn’t an easy thing to manage, but it helps to have good existing relationships with suppliers through Boston Tomato.”

Charlie says there’s one thing Boston Fresh demands from its suppliers and it’s quality. “The quality of produce always trumps price in this market,” he says. “I always tell my team if you wouldn’t buy it at the supermarket for yourself, it’s not good enough to come in here.”

Boston Fresh has made a commitment to training its 20-person team in food-safety practices and procedures. “Our facility is GFSI audited – the highest standard in the industry in terms of food safety,” adds Charlie. “We also have an in-house food safety director.”

This commitment will also translate to the company’s growing fresh-cut operation. “Once we get to expand the fresh-cut business, I think we will add another 10 or so employees to keep up with the volume,” says Charlie.

After less than a year in operation, Boston Fresh LLC has already hit the ground running, focusing on delivering value-added wholesale and custom-fit produce solutions for foodservice customers throughout the Northeast.

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