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Summer 2003 CalBusiness  
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Packaged Produce: A Growing Business

In the middle of California’s Salinas Valley, the fictional setting of John Steinbeck’s novels about the pathos of farm life and the “salad bowl” of the world, sits Taylor Farms. The name is faintly folksy, indicative of its roots in a family business spanning back 70 years. But under the leadership of founder, chairman, and CEO Bruce Taylor, Taylor Farms is hardly a mom-and-pop operation—it has become the world leader in the production of ready-made salad fixings for the restaurant industry. Taylor Farms is the second major salad company that the entrepreneur and his team have built in 22 years.

That’s because Taylor is a third generation member of one of the most innovative lettuce grower and producer families in the country. His maternal grandfather, Bruce Church, was an entrepreneur who began growing and shipping iceberg heads from the Salinas Valley back in the 1920s. Taylor’s father, Ted, took over the company and successfully implemented novel techniques to wrap and gas lettuce in order to give it a longer shelf life.

Having grown up on equal portions of leafy greens and business talk at the dinner table, Taylor became a joint business and development studies major at Cal, where three of his grandparents and both of his parents had attended. After marrying Cal classmate Linda Ruxton (AB 78), he went on to Harvard Business School. In 1981, Taylor joined the newest fledgling family business, which he later named Fresh Express, and rose through the ranks quickly to become president in 1985 and chairman in 1991.

Along the way, Taylor built upon his father’s long-held dream to create ready-to-eat salad for consumers, and led the introduction of “salad in a bag” in grocery stores across the country. In 1994, when it became clear that the extended Taylor family had differences about the future of the company, he left to start Taylor Farms. His new company, which produces fresh-cut vegetables and salads for large foodservice customers such as McDonald’s, Subway, and Red Lobster, has $400 million in annual revenues through nine processing facilities in the United States and Australia.

Taylor attributes his good fortune to the strategic thinking and diversity of cultures and ideas he’s been exposed to through nearly a life-long involvement with Cal. Says Bruce, “Linda and I are blessed to be part of the Cal family and we look forward to continued interaction with the University.”

—Marguerite Rigoglioso

 

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Bruce Taylor
Bruce Taylor
BS 78

Founder, chairman, and
CEO of Taylor Farms,
Salinas, CA
 
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