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  • Red River Foods brings cashew brand to Richmond market

    Dec 27th, 2015

    What Dan Phipps likes about East Bali Cashews, besides the variety of flavors, is the confidence that the imported nuts come from a company that helps make part of the world a better place.

    The cashews have been distributed locally for the past two months by Richmond-based Red River Foods Inc., where Phipps is senior vice president and in line to take over the position of president from his father, James Phipps.

    Red River, a privately held company that was once a subsidiary of Universal Leaf Tobacco Co. Inc., distributes nuts, seeds, and dried fruits and vegetables worldwide.

    East Bali Cashews are a minuscule part of the company’s business — far less than 1 percent — but the product is a company favorite.

    “We are constantly looking for ways we can give back,” Dan Phipps said. “East Bali offers a more sustainable supply chain, it provides jobs in a part of the world where jobs are needed and does so much more.” As a result, Red River has invested in East Bali Cashews and has begun to distribute the company’s products.

    East Bali is led by Aaron Fishman, who got into the cashew business almost by accident after his plans to join the Peace Corps didn’t work out.

    Fishman got a job teaching in East Bali — a poverty-riddled part of the storied island on the eastern edge of the Indian Ocean. He became aware of the abundance of cashew trees, and observed that local farmers sold the delicious nuts on the cheap to Vietnamese processing factories. Most of the profit in the cashew-production business is made by the processors.

    Fishman persuaded a group of Bali investors to fund construction of a local processing plant. Now that plant employs 300 people, almost all of them women. The plant’s campus includes an early-learning center that cares for the children of many of the mothers who work there.

    “Aaron isn’t getting rich,” Phipps said. “You would know that if you saw where he lives. The revenue gets folded back into the company and into programs to help the community’s cashew farmers with management and handling.”

    The East Bali Cashews available in the Richmond market come in 3-ounce packages in a variety of flavors from sea salt to chocolate to garlic and pepper.

    The ready-for-snacks cashews are the exception to Red River’s business of wholesale distribution of raw products.

    Phipps, a University of Richmond graduate with a degree in political science, declined to disclose financial data for the company, but he said Red River ships 42 million pounds of unprocessed cashews a year. “That’s our biggest product, volume-wise,” he said.

    Red River, with headquarters at 9020 Stony Point Parkway, has about 20 Richmond employees. The company has offices or facilities in New York, Washington state, California, China, Benin, Ghana and Turkey.

    The East Bali Cashews are available at the two local Good Foods Grocery stores at the Gayton Crossing shopping center and at the Stony Point Shopping Center, at Stella’s Grocery at 1007 Lafayette St., Kohlmann’s Neighborhood Market at 109 E. Grace St., Little House Green Grocery at 1227 Bellevue Ave. and taZa Coffee ‘n’ Creme at 5047 Forest Hill Ave. You also can order them on

    So far, Richmond is the only market Red River supplies with East Bali Cashews. Phipps said his company is talking with national retailers about carrying the product.

    “Right now,” he said, “we’re gathering information and data for East Bali Cashews to help them enter the U.S. market.