The Packer 25: Rafael Goldberg

10/17/2013 10:32:00 AM
Jim Offner

Courtesy Interrupcion Fair TradeRafael GoldbergSocial policy and political issues are very much on Rafael Goldberg's mind.

Goldberg, 33 and a native of Buffalo, N.Y., even earned a bachelor’s degree in politics from New York University in 2003.

He is also interested in philosophy, a course of study he followed in his undergraduate program. History fires his passion as well, he said.

He also has a flair for business, and as chief executive officer of Interrupcion Fair Trade in New York, he's found a way to make those diverse interests click together harmoniously.

Interrupcion was founded in 2000 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as part social movement, part development of a sustainable supply chain that addresses the social well-being of growers while producing environmentally friendly organic fruits and vegetables.

Goldberg joined the company in 2005 as it was establishing a presence in New York.

The company is as much “social movement” as business enterprise, which was a compelling draw, Goldberg said.

“The thing that drew me was the amazing potential for impact on a social-environmental and nutritional level,” he said. “I got into produce because I saw an opportunity to construct a reality in terms of the way that the food system works; that’s really what drew us as an organization into the space of produce.”

Interrupcion works with partners at all points of the supply chain, Goldberg said.

“We work with farmers and growers and workers and communities throughout Latin America and Central America,” he said.

The New York operation functions as an importer, distributor and marketing arm, he said.

The cause fires his passion daily.

“It’s a very exciting time in the world and particularly food and food culture. Really, on every level, as it relates to the quality of life for people in the developing world,” he said.

It helps that consumers are, more than ever before, interested in connecting with the food they eat and learning about the long reach their food-purchasing choices have into the lives of people who produce that food.

“It keeps me excited, keeps my eye on the prize every day, making positive impact and being involved in such a demanding industry,” he said.

Youthful energy serves Goldberg well, but so does his integrity, said Paul Kneeland, vice president of produce/floral at Parsippany, N.J.-based Kings Food Markets, who said he has known Goldberg for six years.

“He’s young, an up-and-comer in the industry, and he’s willing to go down paths others have not been willing to go down, especially with Fair Trade,” Kneeland said.

Kneeland said Goldberg’s business model balances Fair Trade principles and quality.

“One of the hardest thing a shipper can do is to tell you they can’t ship something, because every shipper wants to fulfill orders 100%, but for him to call you personally and say, ‘I don’t want to ship this because the quality is not there’ is first class,” Kneeland said.

Goldberg said his company’s sales have grown by an average of 100% annually during the past five years.

“We’re very strong and we are introducing our product in the marketplace,” he said.

The future looks just as bright, he said.

“Shoppers want to know more and demand more accountability and want to understand and connect and really celebrate the foods that they eat,” he said.

Brands of the past may not necessarily be the brands of the future, and that’s how Goldberg says his efforts can make a difference.



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