Bert Mucci and Joe Spano Discuss Recent Investments and Expansions in Kingsville, Ontario, Canada, and Huron, Ohio
- by Jordan Okumura
KINGSVILLE, ONTARIO, CANADA - Standing in front of the greenhouse tomato destination at retail is akin to being in the presence of some of the greatest minds in our industry. Creative and resourceful in research and development (R&D) and innovation, this category continues to tilt fresh produce onto its leading-edge time and time again. One of those companies helping to drive our industry’s fresh vision forward is Mucci Farms.
With the company’s latest moves in expansion and ingenuity, Bert Mucci, Chief Executive Officer, and Joe Spano, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, join me to discuss the latest updates on the growth of the company and its offerings.
“Mucci Farms has taken great strides to leverage our growing expertise and investments across our key categories in Kingsville, Ontario, Canada, and Huron, Ohio—both fueled by the demand from our customers and loyal consumer following,” Joe shares with me. “Our 75-acre three-phase project in Huron is nearing completion, and our 36-acre Smuccies™ Sweet Strawberries farm expansion in Kingsville is nearly complete, allowing us to plant at the end of June and be ready for harvest in August in Ontario.”
Phase two in Huron was completed last summer, and Mucci Farms began harvesting from the locale this past November to the praises of its national customer base. The third and final phase is currently under construction and will be ready for harvest in the fall. This Ohio project also includes a 130,000-square-foot warehouse and packing facility.
The Kingsville greenhouse strawberry expansion also elevates the Mucci mix, doubling its existing acreage to 72 total acres and responding to the heightened demand from retailers and berry-lovers alike.
“As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Particularly with strawberries, we started out with a 36-acre plan and built the facility in three separate 12-acre expansions over a three-year period. We literally couldn’t keep up as the product simply doesn’t stay on the shelves for very long,” Joe reveals. “As a result of the success we’ve had, we decided to build the new 36-acres in one shot, ready for harvest this August. We are currently trialing blackberries and will certainly be exploring other varieties to expand the berry category. There is also plenty of runway for future expansions as well, so we’re excited to see what the future has in store.”
The team adds that the company announced warehouse expansions in Romulus, Michigan, and San Antonio, Texas, last summer, which are complete and will be ready for operation later this month. These expansions are helping Mucci Farms to differentiate, diversify, and expand its footprint—as you can probably guess from the enormous success of the programs—in its superstar categories, including tomatoes and strawberries.
“The expansion benefits for our tomato program are endless. The entire 75-acre Huron facility is equipped with high-pressure sodium lighting, which is the foundation of our winter program allowing us to grow fresh product year-round,” Bert shares. “Having product in the Midwest is strategic on multiple levels. It allows us to offer our American consumers locally grown tomatoes 365 days a year and reduce our reliance on foreign product during the winter months.”
While multi-origin programs are essential for many greenhouse growers, the closer the companies can grow the product to their customers the better. The Huron project allows Mucci Farms to avoid a border crossing that can sometimes cause delays, and will also reduce food miles. Proximity to market is greatly improved, as the company can service customers on the Eastern seaboard with more efficiency.
In terms of Mucci Farms’ strikingly vibrant Smuccies strawberries, doubling the company’s strawberry farm acreage allows it to increase its market share in a category that is typically dominated by imports from Florida and California.
“When we originally began looking at innovating the category, a main focus was the opportunity we saw in the market for locally grown strawberries year-round. With the exception of a few short summer months, we never got local berries in our region,” Joe expresses. “Growing in greenhouses has allowed us to not only provide product all year, but also offer flavor, quality, and shelf-life that is only made possible by reducing food miles. Because of our proximity to market, we have the advantage of being able to keep our berries on plants a lot longer and harvest them when they are fully ripe, which is a big part of how we achieve maximum flavor.”
With Mucci Farms’ drive for excellence, progressive growth plan, and speed to market, it is no wonder that the company’s success is more than admirable, it is downright fruitful.