Business updates: Chilean Produce - The Packer

Business updates: Chilean Produce

11/11/2011 10:43:00 AM
Jim Offner

Avocado importers marketer relocates
Maggie Bezart, marketing director with the Aptos, Calif.-based Chilean Avocado Importers Association, has moved to the Lansing, Mich., area to have a more centralized location, she said.
It’s also a homecoming, of a sort, for Bezart, a Michigan native, she said.
“I will still be working with my clients in California and my No. 1 client, the Chilean Avocado Importers Association, said Bezart, who also heads up her own marketing-services company Bezart Enterprises. 
“For travel, it’s more central, so I can reach more customers and also focus my company’s energies on growers in the East and the Midwest also.”
The Chilean Avocado Importers Association also has embarked on a new ad campaign, with billboard and radio spots in selected U.S. eastern and western markets, Bezart said.
“We have two new radio ads we’re running,” she said. “One is a sports theme for our football theme. We also have a general Chile commercial that follows the same theme. Both have a new jingle.”
The billboard program is scheduled to run through January and the radio ad blitz through February.
Fresh fruit association sees avocado surge
Avocados are leading Chile’s increased shipments of fruit to the U.S. this season, said Tom Tjerandsen, managing director for North America with the Sonoma, Calif.-based Chilean Fresh Fruit Association.
“We continue to set records for shipments to North America,” he said. “It’s all attributable to avocados this year. The big freeze reduced their shipments to North America considerably, but in a normal harvest we would have set another record, as well.”
Dave’s Specialty plans organic berry bump
Coral Springs, Fla.-based Dave’s Specialty Imports plans to increase its organic berry shipments to the U.S. for the 2011-12 season by up to 15%, said Mike Bowe, the company’s Cincinnati-based vice president.
Driscoll’s invests in packing facilities
Watsonville, Calif.-based Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc. has continued its trend of expanding its physical plants in Chile, said John Johnston, Chilean blueberry business director.
“We continue to invest in cold-storage and packing facilities to maintain quality standards,” he said. “Every year, we invest more in our infrastructure in Chile.”
Fresh Results moves into bigger offices
Weston, Fla.-based Fresh Results LLC has moved across town, said Eric Crawford, president.
“The company moved its office in the spring because we’re growing,” he said, adding that the move was the company’s third in five years. “We needed a much larger office. We’re doing a lot of hiring.”
Crawford estimated the company has grown from two full-time and one part-time employees, including himself, to 10 in the last four years.
The move accommodates more office space but required no warehousing, he said.
“For us, our seasonality changes so much, we go from heavy production out of Mexico to Argentina to Chile,” he said. 
“We have stuff coming to New Jersey and New York and now Los Angeles. We have so many different operations, it didn’t make sense to build around the one office.”
Hass Avocado Board director moves on
Jose Luis Obregon, the only managing director the Irvine, Calif.-based Hass Avocado Board had ever had, now has moved on.
Obregon left the board Oct. 31 to become president of a family-owned business, IPR Fresh LLC, in Nogales, Ariz.
He was asked about his experience with the Hass board, which coordinates marketing efforts of all avocado marketing orders that ship to the U.S., including the Chilean Hass Avocado Importers Association.
“It’s been a great, great experience for me to be here,” he said. “We’ve seen tremendous growth in the six years I’ve been here. The category has almost doubled in size. More importantly, in all the realm of associations that promote avocados, we’ve been successful in trying to coordinate a lot of programs, avoid any overlapping of activities and maximize the returns on the members’ assessments.”
Obregon said he sees lots of room to grow for the avocado category.
“I think each association has learned to live with each other and learn what each’s strengths are,” he said. “It’s a great group of people. I’m sure whoever they hire to replace me will continue the path of growth. There’s so much opportunity.”
Naturipe Farms garners Berry Quick acclaim
Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC has seen some early success with its new value-added product, Berry Quick, and Chile will play a role in its growth, said Brian Bocock, vice president of sales.
“We won an award for innovation on this item, and we will be offering that from Chile, starting in January,” Bocock said. “It’s a ready-to-eat blueberry that’s packed in a trail sleeve. We started with it this summer with some retailers. Once we get it completely mastered, it will take off in sales.”
The target audience for the item is consumers who want a quick snack or serving for lunch, Bocock said.
“They’re fresh berries, they’re washed, cleaned and ready to eat,” he said.
Berry Quick Fresh Blueberry Snacks is the first of its kind to offer washed and ready-to-eat blueberries, he said, adding that the product is ideal for “on-the-go snacks” and are packed in sleeves designed to prevent crushing.
Oppenheimer Group to add value-added 
Growth in the value-added category is in the plans of the Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer Group in its Chilean grape program, said Josh Leichter, the company’s Newark, Del.-based vice president of the East Coast and grape category director.
“We’re continuing to do more in value-added packaging and fixed-price programs and early season volumes and different certifications of products like Rainforest Alliance,” he said. “We’re just continuing to refine and enhance what we bring to the program.”

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