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Fresh produce distributor now offering logistics

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Restructuring results in six-member management team
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Four Seasons Produce Inc. has packaged and distributed fresh produce for more than 25 years. Now the Lancaster County company is repackaging itself to ensure future growth.
The East Cocalico Township company restructured its management team earlier this year and is expanding by offering new services, including logistics, to its customers.
Efforts to reach out into new business lines have been key to Four Seasons’ growth in the past quarter-century, said David Hollinger, company president. When the company was established in 1976, it handled 200,000 cases of produce per year. It now handles about 12 million cases annually.
“I think we’re a company with passion,” Hollinger said. “We want to be aggressive, and we’re venturing beyond our core area.”
Hollinger helped to establish Four Seasons in 1976 after working with his father at Hollinger’s Farm Market in Ephrata. The company packages and distributes produce for customers in the retail, food service and wholesale markets. It began to expand its focus in 1996 with the formation of a subsidiary. That subsidiary, Four Seasons Trading Co., is an importer and broker of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Four Seasons has about 500 employees and five warehouses in Lancaster County, said Ron Carkoski, the company’s chief executive officer. Four Seasons Trading has offices in Lancaster County and Mission, Texas.
The restructuring created a six-member management team consisting of Carkoski and other executives. The team, together with Hollinger, oversees all of Four Seasons’ operations.
Carkoski said the team increases the company’s efficiency because a single set of people now coordinates the company’s various activities. The team helps to make long-term decisions instead of decisions on a case-by-case basis, he added.
“As a company makes decisions on a day-to-day basis, you fill holes and address issues as they arise,” he said. “We needed to take a step back to form a structure that meets the future needs of the company.”
Hollinger said the company has also begun to develop its logistics business in recent months. Those services include offering produce receiving, warehousing, packaging and distributing for other companies.
“It’s a new concept, and it’s thinking outside the box,” Hollinger said. “This is a way so that companies can stay competitive but also work together.”
Four Seasons is not the only produce-related company in Central Pennsylvania to explore logistics and transportation services.
Verdelli Farms Inc., a produce processor in Swatara Township, Dauphin County, established VF Transportation in 2000. The subsidiary delivers goods for Verdelli Farms and other companies.
Many produce wholesalers nationwide are getting into the transportation and logistics markets, said Kathy Means, vice president for the Produce Marketing Association in Newark, Del. Other companies are expanding by providing refrigerated storage or brokerage services, she added.
“It’s a highly competitive marketplace, and companies are looking for things that will give them an edge or a way to expand their business,” Means said.
Four Seasons continues to focus on growing its produce packaging and distribution business, Carkoski said. For example, the company has aggressively pursued the organic produce distribution market, he said.
Organic farming is one of the fastest-growing segments of agriculture nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The value of retail sales of organic foods nationwide was about $6 billion in 1999 and nearly $8 billion in 2000, the department reported.
Neither Hollinger nor Carkoski would discuss Four Seasons’ revenues. But they said the company’s revenues have climbed by an average of 19 percent per year since 1976.
Hollinger said the company is looking to expand into other business lines and beyond the East Coast states it primarily serves. The company doesn’t want to get into farming or retail sales, but it will consider other ventures, he said.
Four Seasons may also soon expand physically. It has purchased an option to buy 46 acres in East Cocalico Township, Hollinger said. Four Seasons plans to use the site for a new building that would put all of the company’s Lancaster County operations under one roof, he added.
Hollinger would not discuss many details of the possible move because the company has not yet secured financing for the project. Carkoski said construction of a new building could begin as early as this fall.
After 25 years in business, Hollinger said, he just wants to see Four Seasons continue to grow.
“I just turned 50, and I have no intention of slowing down,” he said.

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