LODI, Calif. — Although Rivermaid Trading Co. had a long-term growth plan, it didn’t include entering the stone fruit arena in 2012.
But an opportunity presented itself in early that year to acquire WesPak Sales Inc., Dinuba, and the sales volume it represented couldn’t be passed up, said Patrick Archibeque, Rivermaid Trading Co. chief executive officer.
The growth didn’t stop there.
In early 2013, the Lodi fruit marketer entered into an agreement with Stockton-based Farmington Fresh to be the exclusive sales agent for its pears, cherries and apples.
“Rivermaid had made a conscious effort beginning in 2010 to expand its marketing of pears in the Northwest, and we did that by representing some grower-packers in the Hood River area,” he said. “And we still maintain those and we see that as a growth area and opportunity for us. That was always part of our plan.
Vicky BoydMike Isola of Rivermaid Trading Co. checks out the bloom on this year's cherry crop.“The opportunity for WesPak came up in February 2012. It wasn’t our intention to be in the stone fruit business. However, the opportunity presented itself, and we felt it complemented our existing production in California so we decided to move forward with the purchase.”
Rivermaid led a group that acquired WesPak Sales Inc.
WesPak wasn’t an unfamiliar territory, either. Archibeque said Rivermaid Trading had marketed its cherries for the past 10 years.
Rivermaid Trading Co. already had investments and relationships with growers in Kern County in the southern San Joaquin Valley. With the addition of WesPak, the Lodi marketer picked up acreage in the Tulare and Fresno county areas, he said.
The WesPak deal also allows Rivermaid Trading Co. to be more of a one-stop fruit provider for retail partners.
“As the (California’s) largest pear packer and shipper, we need to continue to leverage those relationships we have developed into the Northwest marketing season,” Archibeque said. “With the (California) pear season in June, we’re the first in the Northern Hemisphere. It coincides with what’s already going on with the retail, which is stone fruit.
“Now we can satisfy all of your cherry and pear needs in addition to the stone fruit category. Our approach has been data-based,” Archibeque said. “How can we help your category, whether it’s with a specific promotion or do you need specific varieties? What are the characteristics of those varieties? We can help improve the category.”
Having facilities in Dinuba as well as Lodi from which to ship also improves Rivermaid Trading’s logistics offerings, said Mike Isola, sales and marketing.
“With the packing facility in the north and the tree fruit in the south, we’ll be able to consolidate shipments for customers,” he said. “With trucking getting more and more difficult, it’s something we’ll be able to offer. Basically, it’s one-stop shopping.”
Archibeque admitted Rivermaid’s strengths have been in cherries and pears. That’s why the firm put together a team of stone fruit experts based in Dinuba to manage stone fruit production, packing and shipping.
“We don’t want retailers to think, ‘Your sales office is primarily located in Lodi. How do you know what’s going on in stone fruit production?’”
One of the attractions with the Farmington Fresh deal was the Stockton firm’s heavy presence in south San Joaquin Valley cherries, Archibeque said.
“So they really complement Rivermaid Trading because our strength is in the northern San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento County area,” he said of cherry production. “And more importantly, it allows us to have a more significant presence out there with our retail partners earlier in the season.”
The south San Joaquin Valley cherry crop typically matures earlier than the northern regions.
The Farmington Fresh deal also provides a second packing facility to help accommodate overflow volumes during the peak of harvest, Archibeque said.
“When incoming production exceeds our capacity to pack, we plan to have Farmington Fresh pack that excess,” he said. “In the past, we have made other arrangements.”