RICHMOND -- There is a sign of life at a formerly vacant warehouse space on West Cutting Boulevard, and it says "Hiring."
The sign, which replaces a "For Lease" sign on the cyclone fence in front of the Distribution Center building, was placed by Nutiva, a rapidly growing importer and marketer of organic "superfood" that has leased 140,000 square feet of the 200,000-square-foot building and has an option for the remainder.
The company will hold a job fair from noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 6 at the warehouse, 213 W. Cutting Blvd., to accept applications for 50 positions, including production/warehouse staff, maintenance staff, customer service professionals, sales associates, accounting staff and administrative associates.
Nutiva founder and CEO John W. Roulac said his 13-year-old company had outgrown its headquarters in Oxnard, and Richmond was an obvious choice for relocation.
"In the last year, because of growth, we needed a much larger facility," he said.
"We wanted a place close to the Port of Oakland, the most centralized port on the West Coast. Richmond has a focus on food production and being a greener city."
The Cutting location has proximity, available space, and "it also has rail, so we can ship and have a lower carbon footprint," Roulac said. "We can reduce the amount of fossil fuel and transportation cost and bring products to the Port of Oakland and ship to Canada and the East Coast."
Councilman Tom Butt
"He told me their hottest market is here in the Bay Area and places like Berkeley and Marin, because they are into health and can afford these kinds of products," Butt said.
In addition, "he said they had done research and felt the city was on an upward trajectory."
Roulac founded Nutiva in Sebastopol in 1999 as an importer and distributor of organic hemp foods, coconut oil and chia seeds, known collectively as superfood for its nutrient-dense content.
The brand had some early challenges establishing and sustaining itself but took hold and relocated to Ventura County.
Nutiva touts a 42 percent annual growth rate since 2005, and its products can be found locally in health food and nutrition stores, including El Cerrito Natural Grocery, and more widely at chains such as Safeway and Whole Foods, as well as on Amazon.com.
Calling superfood an emerging market "would be an understatement," Roulac said. "It's an explosive category. People are looking for solutions. They may not know what hemp, chia and coconut are today, but when they discover it, they fall in love with it and make it part of their daily nutritive intake."
Roulac, 53, is a native of Pasadena but said the Bay Area and Northern California are like a second home.
"I've lived there on and off since I was a teenager," he said.
The company has already laid out plans for community involvement, including a partnership with the volunteer Common Vision program to plant 10 to 15 fruit trees at each of the city's 25 public school campuses.
On a larger scale, the company donates 1 percent of its sales to groups that support sustainable agriculture and is a major backer of the campaign to label foods that contain genetically modified organisms.
"We feel hemp, chia and coconut will end up taking a significant market share from dairy and soy," Roulac said. "It's a more nutritious and environmentally friendly way of producing."
The expanded facility may also take in some side jobs.
"Some smaller natural food companies have contacted us, and we might be doing packaging for other companies and help out their brands," Roulac said.
In addition to the upcoming job fair, applicants can also see opportunities at http://nutiva.com/jobs.