When Paul Neri started Neri Bakery in Port Chester, N.Y., in 1910, he probably did not expect the business to grow into the largest employer in town. With 311 employees on 24/7 shifts in a 240,000-square-foot facility, it is today. In the past three years, it has invested more than $5 million in improvements to its plant.

In today’s global market, competition is fierce and the need to understand trends is more important than ever. When Corsicana, Texas-based Navarro Pecan Co. predicted a significant increase in demand for Pecans in China, the company took action by working with the various segments of the industry – including a number of its competitors and businesses overseas – to ensure that the U.S. pecan industry was positioned to supply this growing demand. 

Is there nothing to be said for tradition? Yes, technology has allowed us to do more in less time and at lower costs, but in some cases, it also asks us to forfeit some things – often, the quality of products. In the food industry, when one company increases production or cuts costs with a bells–and-whistles machine, its competitors may follow suit to stay within a target price range. But then there’s always one company that rejects changes that hurt quality, and when it comes to apple juice, S. Martinelli & Co. has proudly limited its technological advances for the past 143 years. 

Any company specializing in dried fruits knows this industry has a hierarchy. Though a wide variety of dried fruits exist – nearly as many as the number of popular fresh fruits – this industry has its own version of automakers’ Big Three – raisins, prunes and cranberries. “In this business, there are what we call the three legs of the stool,” says George Sousa, a fourth-generation Mariani and president of Mariani Packing Co. Inc.

Keeping up with the latest trends has kept Canadian icon Leclerc Foods innovating with its snack products as it expands into the United States. Founded in Quebec City in 1905, the company has established itself so well in its home country that there is no place to go but south. “Our brand in Canada is very strong – comparable to Nabisco and Keebler in the United States,” Director of National Sales Jean-Sebastien Leclerc maintains.

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