C.H. Robinson Worldwide is one of the behind-the-scenes company names that helps all sorts of cargo and products move across the country and the world. Now it is putting its name on products for the first time in its 115-year history.

The company will be placing its brand, Robinson Fresh, on produce and updated packaging for fruits and vegetables including mini peppers, jalapeños, kale and mixed greens. A company spokesperson said the items could be on local grocery shelves first, including Target stores, before being rolled out nationally to 50 of the 75 largest food retailers in the country.

The Eden Prairie-based company is one of the largest third-party logistics companies in the world, helping other businesses move items from clothing to grain to market.

It all began with produce, though, when Charles Henry Robinson started out as a distributor in 1905.

"The brand allows us to communicate that combination of fresh, high-quality produce and our industry-leading position as a logistics provider," said Michael Castagnetto, president of Robinson Fresh.

The Robinson Fresh division helps thousands of customers move upward of 2 billion pounds of produce each year by truck, rail, cargo ship and air. The division sources produce from a network of farmers from 35 countries.

According to Castagnetto, the first products under the Robinson Fresh brand all have global supply chains that are highly reliant on logistics that fit in well with the parent company's expertise in global logistics and supply chain solutions.

Moving into branded products creates new opportunities and challenges for the company. C.H. Robinson is well known to retailers and food-service customers, and now it is extending its brand promise to consumers.

"We are realistic about our role as a consumer brand," Castagnetto said. "It's really about helping our retail customers tell their story about their departments."

Dave Hopkins, managing director of the Carlson Brand Enterprise department at the University of Minnesota, notes the purpose of branding is to make your products stand apart from others.

"The whole point is to build relevance and resonance with consumers," Hopkins said. "Ultimately consumers are willing to pay a premium for that quality and trust of that particular product."

C.H. Robinson moves commodity items and organic produce but also other branded food products including Welch's and Tropicana. Its services go beyond transportation and cold-chain logistics services.

"As our retail customers know, we go beyond providing fresh produce for their stores and e-commerce platforms," Castagnetto said. "We combine a fresh, high-quality product with consumer and category insights as well as a global suite of services and best-in-class talent to support their company's success."

The timing of the brand announcement comes after more than a year's work on the project but the pandemic has further highlighted people's focus on fresh, high-quality ingredients and the expectation they can get them through multiple channels, including e-commerce.

"We know the best way to connect with consumers is to have the best quality produce on the shelf when and where they want to buy it," Castagnetto added.

Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926