Top 10 Produce LLC Launches 100% Traceable Produce Brand

SALINAS, CA (June 1, 2009) - Top 10 Produce LLC announced a plan designed to help family farmers and small growers maximize the effectiveness of current and future trace back technology while ensuring and enhancing small growers’ access to retail chains.  Top 10 Produce LLC supports the Produce Traceability Initiative, and the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, by encouraging small growers to adopt GS1's item-specific traceability utilizing the Databar on loose produce items.  Databar adoption by small growers has stalled, despite an intensive media campaign and strong product support by GS1 US.  Top 10 provides a solution to this problem and allows for implementation of flexible item-level traceability with only minimal expense to the grower.  Further, Top 10’s branding strategy provides maximum economic benefit to compensate the grower for incurring the additional expense of labeling each item of produce with a Databar.

The GS1 Databar goes one step further than what is required under the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI).  Major retailers like Wal-Mart, Loblaw's and Winn-Dixie are already up-to-speed with DataBar, but many others won’t require Databar before January 1, 2010, the sunrise date for the new barcode.  Top 10 Produce LLC provides Databar for all of its Charter Growers licensed prior to January 1, 2010, and allows the grower full discretion to make product labeling choices to maximize revenue for the grower rather than to generate revenue for the brand.

“Our goal is to ensure that all of our growers exceed the requirements of the new Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) efficiently, and with minimal hassle,” said John Bailey, Executive Director of Top 10 Produce LLC.  “Family farmers and small growers are concerned about the costs associated with PTI as well as the complex regulations being discussed in the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009.  Top 10 Produce LLC takes the worry away from our growers by assigning GS1 approved product numbers for all of their produce items and by guiding them in the use of the tracking labels, so that they can stay focused on what they do best – growing great tasting produce.”

The Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), is an industry-wide effort, intended to move the supply chain to a common standard for electronic produce traceability.  The plan involves adopting a standardized system of case bar-coding for all produce sold in the United States, to allow product to be tracked throughout the distribution chain.  If it is successful, the plan will maximize the effectiveness of traceability procedures, improve internal efficiencies and assist public officials needing to quickly trace back a product to narrow the impact of potential recalls. 

However, a significant challenge to the plan's success has been smaller growers’ reluctance to adopt the GS1 technology required for participation, because the technology can be expensive for a very small operation to acquire.  A GS1 manufacturer’s number is required before a small grower can label any of their cases of produce for traceability.  The cost of a manufacturer’s number can range from $750 into the thousands for the first year, with an annual renewal fee each year thereafter, depending on a company's annual sales.  However, even the $750 minimum for the first year is too steep a price for many of the struggling small to medium-sized growers to absorb and that does not even begin to account for the time spent figuring out how to implement the program.  At the same time, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 is drawing more attention to the problem, and retailers are responding in rapidly rising numbers to the Government’s call for a near-term solution.

As the produce industry approaches the January 1, 2010 sunrise for the Databar, more and more retailers are demanding case-level traceability and sometimes even item-specific traceability for small loose produce items.  Many small growers have already received letters confirming that a GS1 barcode will soon be a requirement of doing business with some retail chains.  "Over the next two years, small growers risk being completely shut out from the rapidly growing number of retail chains that are requiring case level or item-level produce traceability.” said Bailey.  “Top 10 Produce LLC offers these struggling family farmers a low cost, simple, and flexible, item-level produce traceability solution, since an annual license to sell under the 100% traceable Top 10 brand only costs Charter Growers $180 per year and that includes Top 10 assigning product codes to each of the grower’s items and working with the grower to ensure that the grower’s labeling system is in compliance with retailer requirements. 

Top 10 will also open doors for the smaller grower by pooling produce from large numbers of smaller growers, thereby providing the volume needed for larger retail chains to engage Top 10 Produce as a supplier.   Since 100% of Top 10 brand produce items will be labeled with a traceable GS1 Databar, the Top 10 brand will provide compelling benefits to large retailers, encouraging additional produce purchases from smaller growers, and from local growers selling under the Top 10 brand.

What are the compelling benefits to retailers provided by Top 10 Produce LLCs 100% Databar-labeled brand?  First, Top 10’s feature of a barcode on each item produce enables retailers to avoid inventory shrink caused by mis-keyed PLN numbers, such as when an organic produce item is inadvertently rung up by a cashier as a less expensive conventional produce commodity.  Second, because conventional barcodes are too large to be used on small items such as loose produce, retailers report that Databar use allows for internal efficiencies for retail produce sales involving loose produce items that are unavailable without the use Databar.  These efficiencies include, but are not limited to: improved accuracy at self-checkout and point of sale, increased speed at checkout, instant identification of the vendor, the ability to use 1SYNC data synchronization from GS1, and rapid item-specific recalls in the event of a food safety crisis.  Third, retailers using Databar may avoid the imposition of government-mandated traceability solutions being considered in the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009.

Top 10 Produce LLC offers traceability and marketing solutions for small and medium-sized produce suppliers by unifying them under a nationally-recognized brand to efficiently execute the Produce Traceability Action Plan prepared by leaders in the produce industry and by utilizing technology to extract maximum value from GS1 technology that makes the 100% traceable brand possible.  Top 10 Produce LLC’s mission is to empower family farmers and small growers to rise above the commoditization of their produce and ensure them unfettered access to all markets.  Top 10 Produce LLC is based in the "Salad Bowl of the World," Salinas, California.  For more information about Top 10 Produce LLC, please visit or call (888) NOW-2010.

What is the Produce Traceability Initiative?

Building on companies’ current internal traceability systems, and using the existing foundation provided by international standards from the GS1 organization, the Produce Traceability Initiative provides the capacity to achieve external traceability by standardizing the incorporation of two critical pieces of traceability information: a Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN), and a lot number. Whereas most information necessary for traceability is already captured during each company’s normal business processes (such as the ship to, deliver to, and purchase order number details recorded in shipping documents), the inclusion and tracking of the GTIN and lot number will bring the connectivity between companies and across the supply chain that is currently missing. The GTIN will identify who the “brand owner” is (i.e., the company whose brand appears on the produce case) and the type of product inside; while the lot number specifically identifies the lot or batch from which the produce came.

This information will be labeled on each case in human-readable form, so that it can be read and understood by personnel throughout the supply chain, as well as in a machine-readable barcode which each member of the supply chain will be able to scan and maintain in their computer systems.

The Produce Marketing Association has identified seven steps to move the supply chain to chain-wide, electronic traceability by late 2012. By first quarter 2009, “brand owners” (i.e., the owner of the brand that appears on the product in the case) will (1) obtain GS1-issued company prefixes required to create GTINs, and (2) assign 14-digit GTINs to every case configuration they pack. They will then (3) provide those GTINs to their buyers by third quarter 2009, so that buyers can input this data into their information management systems. By third quarter 2010, brand owners will begin placing the GTIN and lot number on case labels in (4) human-readable form and (5) machine-readable barcodes. Each subsequent handler of the case will be able to scan and store the GTIN and lot number on (6) inbound cases in 2011, and (7) on outbound cases in 2012.