Lancaster Foods sees team as biggest resource
Lancaster Foods, operating out of Jessup, MD, is a wholesale supplier of produce and fresh-cut products to retail distribution centers and store locations. With a niche for fill-in orders and product rework, the company has established itself as a trusted and timely partner for several large retail companies.
“We’re continuing to grow, primarily in retail,” said John Gates, president of Lancaster Foods. “We’re pushing the organic local programs, as well as the repack programs.”
A few years ago, the company was acquired and made a subsidiary of The Coastal Companies and last year that company merged with Sysco/FreshPoint, but through it all, the Lancaster Foods team remained intact and continues to act as the retail arm of the entity, offering the same dedicated service as it did as a stand-alone business.
“Everyone talks about labor being a challenge, but we’ve been able to maintain a steady workforce,” Gates said. “We’re taking good care of our people and we’re not losing anyone. That’s a big plus for us. They understand our product and our customer, and that gives us a strategic advantage.”
The company also picked up some additional resources as being part of FreshPoint in terms of logistics capabilities.
Lancaster Foods operates out of a 220,000-square-foot state-of-the-art distribution and processing center, where the company first took up roots in 2008. With approximately 700 employees, the company remains a leading diversified produce wholesaler, whose value-added services sets it apart.
From consumer-ready packages to specialty packaging to fresh-cut offerings, Lancaster Foods delivers innovative, customized solutions that meet the specific needs of its customers and consumers.
“Business has been steady in 2023, though retail has been a little flat because of the prices with inflation; prices are higher so consumption is down,” Gates said. “The price increases are across the board but there are some good areas—we’re still doing well with fresh-cut, we’re still doing very good in the berry category. Those are the two outliers doing a little better.”
Of course, comparing business this year to the last few pandemic years is sometimes hard to calculate fairly, especially with inflation.
“During the pandemic, retail was very, very strong, so we’re competing against ourselves with some tough numbers,” Gates said. “To remain flat is pretty good actually.”
Gates is proud that every day, more than 100 trucks run from Maine to Florida with heavy concentration in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., all to meet needs of retail customers with what they want, when they want it.
“We’ve got a decent population base and with the Eastern Shore, we have an abundant supply of growers,” Gates said. “Our local programs are maybe stronger than some other areas in the country. We’re also located in an area where we can overnight to Boston and Atlanta, so the mid-Atlantic is not a bad place to be.”
The secret to success in 2023 remains the same as it has been since the company first began—traditional values of customer service and hard work.
“We built our business on being available seven days a week, pretty much 24 hours a day,” Gates said.
“We built our brand on being reliable and providing excellent customer service. Our customers appreciate that and come back again and again.”