Prima Bella’s Unique Sales Approach

Sales Come First

If you ask John Bacchetti about his sweet corn growing operation, he’ll tell you that wouldn’t be a logical place to start. It makes more sense to start at the beginning, and that means with marketing, not growing. He has a marketing plan in place for every crop he grows each year well before the season starts. “If you don’t have a home for it, you shouldn’t grow it,” he says. “We start the marketing process way before we start the planting process.”

In fact, that way of doing business extends well beyond annual business planning. The story of his family’s operation, Del Terra Farms of Tracy, CA, all begins with marketing. And while it is a somewhat complicated story because of the family members involved and the way the various businesses are intertwined, it all comes back to that tried and true concept of business: Find a need and fill it.

In 1996, John Bacchetti’s cousin, Mark Bacchetti, founded Marca Bella Farms. Together Marca Bella Farms and Bert Bacchetti Farms (Mark’s father) built an asparagus packingshed in Tracy, which is located about an hour east of San Francisco. The asparagus shed was only used for about three months a year, however, and when the area’s asparagus industry started going south (literally, to South America), Mark began thinking about how he could best put the 23,000-square-foot shed to use. He decided on packing sweet corn, which is harvested locally from mid-June through late October. And in 1999, Prima Bella Produce, Inc., which now packs corn year-round grown as far south as Mexico, was born.

Prepare For Takeoff

Today, Mark, John, and John’s brother-in-law Jim Thoming are partners in Del Terra Farms, a diversified 4,500-acre operation which grows such vegetables as cannery tomatoes, asparagus, and lima beans as well as 1,300 acres of sweet corn. All the corn is processed by Prima Bella, which is solely owned by Mark Bacchetti. But they didn’t start off nearly that big. When they began in the late 1990s they farmed just 16 acres of sweet corn, total. “Back in 1999, we started out hauling boxes in a pick-up truck to Safeway,” says John. “Then that commodity (packaged sweet corn) just took off.”

Today they grow just enough corn to keep the processing plant humming away in the summer. To keep the plant — which is the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi River — supplied during the rest  of the year, they contract with about 10 growers from as far away as Mexico, and, to a far lesser extent, Florida. Nearly all the growing takes place in the West. The key to their success is that each package of Glori Ann sweet corn — Gloria Ann is Mark Bacchetti’s mother’s name — is uniform, says Prima Bella General Manager Paul Bogetti. “The whole plan is to make sure that when the consumer picks up a package it tastes the same no matter what time of year,” he says.

To that end, they supply the growers they contract with a list of about a dozen varieties they can grow. The growers aren’t always particularly pleased to have the varieties dictated to them, but it’s necessary to achieve uniformity, says Bogetti. John Bacchetti smiles and nods at the plant manager’s comment. “That even holds true,” he says with a laugh, “with the farmers who are related to the guys who own the shed.”

We’re All Farmers

It helps, though, that all involved in the operation are either active in farming or have farmed in the past. “We understand what they want in terms of yield,” says Bogetti. “You can find the best tasting corn out there, but if it doesn’t yield it’s not going to work.”

They are always on the hunt for better varieties. Marc Mizuno, who heads up procurement for Prima Bella, is constantly working with seed company breeders. They plant hundreds of varieties each year, and from those the breeders will select the top candidates. Prima Bella then winnows down those candidates, working with their growers who allow them to plant seed variety trials in each of their respective growing areas to come up with a final list of acceptable varieties.

Prima Bella also works with growers to maintain food safety. To ensure that they can trace back exactly where a given lot of corn has been picked, all boxes or RPCs are put on pallets and then tagged with a harvest date and location. “We can tell right down to the block of a given field where it came from,” says Mizuno.

Fresh, Never Frozen

Prima Bella further works with growers to make sure the corn is properly packed before being shipped to the processing facility. Because it has such a large core that retains heat, corn is difficult to cool, and immediate cooling is critical to freshness. So most of the corn is cooled immediately after picking through an ice injection process. “It’s like a clamshell around the container,” says Mizuno. “A slush of ice is pumped in to reduce the temperature of the corn.”

At the plant, the corn is trimmed, cleaned, and sorted, all by hand. In fact, all processing except for cutting and wrapping, from picking to when the corn is loaded onto trucks to leave the plant, is done by hand. “If you have just one broken kernel,” explains Bacchetti, “it lowers the shelflife.”

And a long shelflife is extremely important to the mega-stores and large grocery chains throughout the Western U.S. that sell Glori Ann corn. Also, it’s critical to the success of Prima Bella’s next venture, to supply cobs and cob-ettes for foodservice. Currently, that’s largely a frozen business, but Prima Bella doesn’t deal in frozen corn, and they think diners will appreciate that. “We want to put fresh corn into restaurants,” says Bogetti.  

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
Apples & PearsMarvin Sundquist Dies At 89
September 1, 2015
Marvin Sundquist, the retired owner of Sundquist Fruit and Cold Storage, died on Aug. 29 at the age of 89, Read More
Apples & PearsSyngenta Receives EPA Registration For Solatenol  Fungicide
September 1, 2015
The fungicide is available in four product offerings, pending state registrations. Read More
Grower Achievement AwardPero Family Farms Is The 2015 Grower Achievement Award Recipient
September 1, 2015
The farm family that runs this Delray Beach-FL based operation develops, produces, packages, and markets its fresh-cut products while continuing to think outside the box. Read More
Dennis P. Broadaway
CitrusFlorida Citrus Packers Bestows Association’s Highest Honor To One Of Its Own
September 1, 2015
For his dedication to the Sunshine State’s fresh citrus sector, Dennis Broadaway receives John T. Lesley Award for Excellence. Read More
Citrus Achievement AwardSaving Citrus A Perpetual Task
September 1, 2015
Orie Lee, the 2015 Citrus Achievement Award winner, talks about how growing citrus has changed in his lifetime and how it hasn't. Read More
Florida Ag Expo10th Annual Florida Ag Expo Field Tours To Tackle Production Challenges
September 1, 2015
There will be plenty to see and learn during the milestone event's exclusive field trials. Read More
Apples & PearsPennsylvania Congressman Supports CIDER Act
August 31, 2015
Freshman Congressman Ryan Costello (PA-06) spent a recent afternoon at Frecon Farms in Boyertown, PA, to tout the CIDER Act, Read More
Oriental Fruit fly
CitrusExotic Fruit Flies Invade South Florida
August 31, 2015
Efforts are under way to eradicate pest that attacks more than 230 different fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Read More
Business PlanningBe Food Safety Recall-Ready [Opinion]
August 31, 2015
No one ever wants to make someone sick after consuming fresh produce, but in spite of the protocols in place, recallls happen and you must be prepared. Read More
Crop ProtectionSustainable Options For Controlling Brown Marmorated Stink Bug In Vegetables
August 31, 2015
A researcher from Rutgers University offers pointers to help you control this pest of fruits and vegetables. Read More
The Latest
Apples & PearsMarvin Sundquist Dies At 89
September 1, 2015
Marvin Sundquist, the retired owner of Sundquist Fruit and Cold Storage, died on Aug. 29 at the age of 89, Read More
Apples & PearsSyngenta Receives EPA Registration For Solatenol  Fungi…
September 1, 2015
The fungicide is available in four product offerings, pending state registrations. Read More
Grower Achievement AwardPero Family Farms Is The 2015 Grower Achievement Award …
September 1, 2015
The farm family that runs this Delray Beach-FL based operation develops, produces, packages, and markets its fresh-cut products while continuing to think outside the box. Read More
Dennis P. Broadaway
CitrusFlorida Citrus Packers Bestows Association’s Highest Ho…
September 1, 2015
For his dedication to the Sunshine State’s fresh citrus sector, Dennis Broadaway receives John T. Lesley Award for Excellence. Read More
Citrus Achievement AwardSaving Citrus A Perpetual Task
September 1, 2015
Orie Lee, the 2015 Citrus Achievement Award winner, talks about how growing citrus has changed in his lifetime and how it hasn't. Read More
Florida Ag Expo10th Annual Florida Ag Expo Field Tours To Tackle Produ…
September 1, 2015
There will be plenty to see and learn during the milestone event's exclusive field trials. Read More
Apples & PearsPennsylvania Congressman Supports CIDER Act
August 31, 2015
Freshman Congressman Ryan Costello (PA-06) spent a recent afternoon at Frecon Farms in Boyertown, PA, to tout the CIDER Act, Read More
Oriental Fruit fly
CitrusExotic Fruit Flies Invade South Florida
August 31, 2015
Efforts are under way to eradicate pest that attacks more than 230 different fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Read More
Business PlanningBe Food Safety Recall-Ready [Opinion]
August 31, 2015
No one ever wants to make someone sick after consuming fresh produce, but in spite of the protocols in place, recallls happen and you must be prepared. Read More
Crop ProtectionSustainable Options For Controlling Brown Marmorated St…
August 31, 2015
A researcher from Rutgers University offers pointers to help you control this pest of fruits and vegetables. Read More
CitrusNominations Open For Next Class Of Florida Citrus Hall …
August 31, 2015
Inductees to be honored during the 54th annual Citrus Celebration Luncheon. Read More
CitrusWhole-Farm Revenue Protection Insurance To Be Available…
August 31, 2015
USDA offers greater flexibility for beginning, organic and fruit and vegetable growers. Read More
Cucurbits8 Must-Have Melons
August 31, 2015
This month’s variety specs feature focuses on the latest cantaloupe and melon varieties. Some of the features highlighted include disease Read More
drought management; irrigation; water management
CitrusClear Up Misconceptions About Water Use In Ag
August 31, 2015
Those in the industry need to to clear up misconceptions about water use in agriculture. Read More
FruitsNew Airless Tire For Center Pivots
August 31, 2015
Aperture design provides flexibility over ridges to help prevent overloading of the drive train. Read More
Stone FruitHow Canopy Structures Can Affect Sweet Cherry Productiv…
August 31, 2015
We have previously explored orchard cover technologies to modify climatic risks in sweet cherry production, such as rain-cracking and spring Read More
Fruits6 Tips To Avoid Postharvest Losses
August 31, 2015
Avoiding postharvest losses essentially comes down to knowing what techniques to employ, and what to evade throughout each link in Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateProducts To Help Your Trees Fight Off Citrus Greening
August 31, 2015
Tree decline is one of the major components of citrus greening disease or huanglongbing (HLB). Vectored by the Asian citrus Read More