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True to its mission, Ciranda continues to grow

Ciranda's cocoa buyer Eckhart Kiesel is in a cocoa field in the Dominican Republic. No matter how remote the location both Kiesel and the perspective sellers have instant access to market prices, thanks to cell phone technology. Photo submitted by Ciranda1 / 3
Team members of Ciranda include, front from left (on stairs), Allison Lowe, Krista Holman, (on bench) Hans Friese, Joan Friese and Prescott Bergh; second row(on stairs) Amber Duray, Karen Brabec, (standing) Joe Rouleau, Maggie Rouleau, Rosalie Walker, Jenelle Ludwig Krause, Linda Govekar and Pat Warren; back row (on porch), Kishori Koch, Steve Hyde, Michelle Beauvais, Polonia Novack, Ken Justich, Patty Gferer, Dawn Pace, and Amy Backler. Not pictured, Alton Berquist, Jim Mitchell, Eckhart Kiesel. Photo b...2 / 3
Ciranda logo3 / 3

Ciranda, founded in 1994 in Minneapolis, moved to Hudson in 2001. Since then the company has become a major player in the business of importing, certified organic, sustainable and fair trade agricultural products.

Since 2006 when the Hudson Star-Observer published a feature story about Ciranda, its staff has doubled. The corporate headquarters is in Hudson but today there is staff in New York, Tennessee and California. In addition there are six warehouses dotted across the United States and Canada all located close to their customer base.

"The whole organic industry has expanded," said Joan Friese. "I am amazed how much more people want to support sustainable agriculture."

Participating in tradeshows such as Natural Products ExpoEast, the Ciranda team has seen signs of a rebound in the economy.

"There are a number of new product lines and continued growth and exposure in every category including cosmetics," said Prescott Bergh.

"We are a wholesale operation supplying products to all of the top 25 producers of organic food products." Over 250 product samples per month are sent to perspective buyers from the Hudson headquarters.

They have expanded their own lines which include oils and shortenings; cocoa and chocolates; sweeteners, honey and agave; and an extensive line of tapioca products. A complete list of all the ingredients they import is available on their website, Another new offering is a prebiotic product.

"We looks for sources and approach potential suppliers," said Hans Friese, founder of Ciranda. "Sometimes the people come to us and sometimes we go to them. Our role is that we are an importer of products that are not grown in the United States."

"The technical part and quality assurance is where we put a lot of emphasis on quality," said Joan. "You can never have too much emphasis on quality." It is for this reason that Ciranda has developed many long-term relationships with suppliers throughout the world, primarily from Europe, the tropics in Asia, South America and Africa.

"We help them meet our needs, while being cultural sensitive," said Bergh. The Fair Trade label on products means that the following components are part of growing the food; safe working conditions, fair wages, health care, education for the workers and their children, drinking water, food and shelter and transportation to and from work.

"These components indicate that producers put their profits back into their workers," said Hans. "The consumer is aware that part of what he is paying for is going to improve conditions for the workers."

Ciranda's purchasing department has new challenges also. Not only do they have an increased volume of goods heading into the United States, ever since the "peanut" scare the industry has changed a lot.

"Things like that, that happen just make the system stronger," said Joan. "Food is so dynamic in our lives."

"Our quality has played a huge role in our ability to grow," said Bergh. "I am able to approach the food industry confident we maintain our organic quality from the farm, through processing, warehousing and ultimately to trucking it to the customer."

Food safety issues have brought about new regulations.

"We understand why they need to be in place," said Joan. "We provide all the documentation regarding suppliers and yet sometimes the containers end up being held at the ports for weeks. There really is no rhyme or reason for it. It is frustrating."

To address the problem Ciranda has changed their purchasers' lead times and work with their customers to make sure they receive their ingredients in a timely fashion.

It is reflects the impact of globalization, economic, political and environmental conditions all around the world.

"It has slowed down our whole process and added cost," said Hans.

"This is the new world. It is kind of sad," said Joan.

Meanwhile back at company headquarters in Hudson, Ciranda is setting an example to admire.

"We are working very hard to improve our own sustainability programs," said Hans. "From how we operate the office, with recycled office supplies to the fact that 12 percent of our energy is solar generated. We want to reduce our carbon footprint."

From beehives which are part of a University of Minnesota research project on the colony collapse syndrome to rain gardens, the Ciranda grounds are all being managed in a sustainable way.

"We are really trying to go all the way by doing everything in a sustainable fashion," said Joan. "We want to share that experience with the community."

Last summer a garden tour was offered to the public with plans to do the same in 2013.

"It is a business but it is also like a family," said Hans. Since 2006, Ciranda built an addition to the 1860 vintage home, which is the company headquarters and recently added a garage, which maintains the architectural integrity while providing a conference room.

"We are not a company that has a lot of contact with the community," said Joan. "But we still have a lot to offer the community. We like being at this location in Hudson."

For more information about Ciranda's goals, missions and origins, go to