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Finding fresh solutions in agriculture
Bruce Taylor, BS 78
CEO, Taylor Farms, Salinas, Calif.
Bruce Taylor didn't want to go into the family business— lettuce—because he didn't see a way to differentiate the product. His grandfather started growing and shipping lettuce in California's Salinas Valley in the 1920s, and his father, Ted Taylor, BS 53, followed suit.
But when Taylor's father developed the modifiedatmosphere packaging that helped create the packaged salad industry, Taylor changed his mind. He helped his father build their company, Fresh Express, into the market leader in bagged salad.
In 1995, Taylor wanted to innovate further and started a new firm, Taylor Farms, with several financial partners. It's now the world's largest fresh salad processor, with 11 plants and nearly $2 billion in annual revenue.
At every opportunity, Taylor praises the contributions of the Taylor Farms team; his wife, Linda Ruxton, BA 78; and their four sons—two work at Taylor Farms and two are students. "When I say it's a family business, I mean not only my wife, my sons, and me, but the extended family of every employee."
Taylor gained an appreciation for diversity while studying business and development studies at Berkeley. "I learned that people can have different backgrounds and opinions, and that you can share a common goal and build something together," he says.
Taylor takes a democratic approach to leadership; he doesn't conduct performance reviews because he views the context of "I'm the boss, you're the subordinate" as demeaning. "I don't dictate outcomes. I work with great people who are focused on the customers, not on themselves," he says. "The team interacts constantly, and I want the whole organization to be full of leaders."
Today Taylor Farms makes salads for restaurants like McDonald's and Red Lobster, packages privatelabel products such as salad kits for grocery giants like Safeway and Kroger, and prepares ingredients and recipes for grocers to make deli items in large quantities. The company's newest group makes fresh meals like chicken dinners and enchiladas in single-serving and family sizes.
"The future is value added," making fresh food more convenient to prepare, Taylor says. "The continual challenge is to make products that are convenient, healthy, and great tasting."