Delivering High-quality Organic Produce to the Midwest

with Cynthia Boynton of B&B Organics

A lifelong interest in nutrition and a passion to make organic produce available in the Midwest inspired Cynthia Boynton to found B&B Organics, Inc. in 2001. The Indiana-based company offers the finest and freshest produce to retail stores, restaurants, and buying cooperatives in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio. B&B Organics utilizes several key initiatives to be successful while adhering to its central mission—improving the health of the country by making nutritious food readily available.

1. Educate at Every Opportunity

“I am a nutritionist, so I am committed to educating consumers on the importance of locally sourced, organic foods, and the impact food has on their health,” Boynton says. “In order to be certified organic, foods must be grown without harmful chemical fertilizers, petroleum-based fertilizers, genetic modification, or irradiation. Organic farms treat plants, soil, and animals with natural products instead of synthetic chemicals and drugs. So, eating organic foods helps keep dangerous chemicals and pesticides out of your body.”

Education has been critical as B&B Organics introduced organic alternatives to people in the Midwest who are accustomed to meat and potatoes. “When we started [more than] 11 years ago, the interest in organics was just beginning here,” Boynton says. “It was tough to break into the market, but we’ve persevered and continue to do so.”

2. Make Organic Food Affordable

B&B Organics is committed to delivering the finest and freshest produce at the best prices. “Since we are promoting health, we believe in giving people real quality food to eat at a reasonable price so they can take care of themselves,” Boynton says. “If they can’t afford organic, they aren’t going to eat it.” B&B Organics negotiates with their suppliers for fair pricing. Their produce stays fresh because they don’t store it for long before it’s delivered to the customer. With two deliveries a week to major customers, the produce is moved in and out quickly, maximizing freshness.

3. Get Creative to Reach Consumers

As one of its growth strategies, B&B Organics came up with a plan to reach consumers. When the economy dipped in 2008, Boynton met with her staff to come up with creative ways to get the company’s organic produce into the homes of families, so parents could feed their children healthy food at a reasonable price. B&B Organics came up with a box program. Each box contained between 8 and 11 items and were available for purchase between $22 and $33. “I couldn’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Thank you for allowing us to still feed children healthfully and not break the bank,’” Boynton says. For those who can’t afford fresh fruits and vegetables, B&B Organics generously donates produce. “We are committed to assisting businesses and families in underserved areas by donating produce,” Boynton says. “We donate to local restaurants, schools, and day-care centers.”

4. Keep the Focus on the Little Guys

B&B Organics partners with regional farmers to encourage organically raised produce. This is proving to be a challenge, because the Midwest growing season is short and only a few local growers are willing to commit to the expense and the restrictions of organic certification. B&B Organics offers assistance with distribution and the purchase of this locally and organically grown produce. The company’s emphasis has always been on the smaller companies, not the big-box grocers. B&B Organics willingly supplies the small stores, co-ops, and buying clubs with organic produce, while its competition sets minimum order requirements. “They need to be in business, too,” Boynton says. “The mom-and-pop stores are what keep the country going.” As a result, Boynton shares her experience and business practices with store owners on what to order, how often to order, and ways to build interest in organic eating.

5. Offer Quality Service and Produce

Quality service and delivery help ensure that customers keep coming back time and time again. B&B Organics doesn’t have an answering machine where customers listen to a recording or get stuck in an automated system; instead, they reach a live person every time. “We are in constant contact with our customers,” Boynton says. “We work very closely with the produce managers and give them ideas or send out recipes. We do everything we can to promote their business so they make money and stay in business.” Quality produce is equally as important to B&B Organics’ customers. They appreciate that the company only delivers the highest-quality produce available.

6. Grow Your Own Food

Last year, B&B Organics began leasing land. The company grew butternut squash, tomatoes, and peppers on the six acres, and intends to swap out the tomatoes for brussels sprouts this year. “One of our goals is to produce more and more of our own produce, so we aren’t bringing it from across the country,” Boynton says. In 2012, B&B Organics will rely on three heated greenhouses to grow organic produce in Indiana year round.