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Markon Cooperative turns 25

Founded 25 years ago, Markon Cooperative set out to bring the voice of foodservice to the produce community. As the industry's first produce buying group, that voice has been loud and clear about what operators and distributors need from grower-shippers in the way of products, quality, packaging and safety. Many of the group's biggest initiatives, from its 1996 launching of a pre-cut produce line to take labor out of the kitchen, to its industry-leading 5-Star Food Safety audit program, to sophisticated category management tools for multi-unit operators, have set new standards for the industry.

For its distributors and their customers, Markon's corporate staff serves as "boots on the ground" in the major West Coast growing areas, doing inspections, negotiating prices and pushing for top quality. "Twenty-five years ago foodservice was a completely new and unknown market to the growers out here. They were retail focused," says Tim York, president. "Our influence was putting foodservice on the map for grower-shippers."

Markon and its distributor members also focus on helping to educate foodservice operators about the produce industry. "We serve as the produce experts for our distributors' customers, helping to make sure they're using the right product at the right price for the right menu application," York says. "And we do upwards of 25 customer tours each year, bringing operators into the growing areas."

As Markon looks ahead to its next 25 years, the group is working now on a plan to standardize sustainability metrics and is involved in the industry-wide drive to double produce consumption by 2020. The good news, he adds, is that these and other efforts Markon has gotten behind over the years deliver benefits not only to its members but to the entire industry.

Markon Cooperative
Salinas, CA
Member Distributors: Ben E. Keith Foods, CONO Food Service, Gordon Food Service USA, GFS Canada, IFH, Maines Paper & Food Service, Nicholas & Co., ProPacific Fresh, Reinhart FoodService, Shamrock Foods
Aggregate sales: $19 billion
Web site: www.markon.com