“The wonderful part about our program this year, for the 2012-13 season is we continue the same operation out of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico” as in past seasons, said Javier (J.J.) Badillo, director of diversified products, who runs the Nogales, AZ, operation of Santa Paula, CA-based Calavo Growers Inc.
“We continue with our greenhouse and shade-cloth” operations as well as some open field production, but most of the production is now in protective structures, he said. There is “very light open-field production these days.”
The company’s products from Mexico will be the same as in the past, he said. Those products “will continue to be our mature green tomato program, our vine-ripe program, our Roma tomato program, our beefsteak program,” as well as tomatoes on the vine and red bell peppers.
The TOVs and red bells were a trial program last year and continue to be trial programs this year, although both programs have been expanded for 2012-13, Mr. Badillo said.
Calavo’s pack styles for tomato items continue as before, “in the 15-pound one-layer beefs, the 20-pound two-layer program, our 25-pound mature green and vine-ripe programs, and our RPC programs packed to quality and size specifications,” he said.
The 15-pounders are stacked 90 per pallet, the two-layers at 88 per pallet, and the 25-pound mature green and vine-ripe cartons at 80 per pallet, he said. “Our RPC program will vary from 80 to 100.”
Calavo’s Roma program “continues to advance this year,” Mr. Badillo said. The box consists of “a body and a lid. It is not an open top box. It does have a lid, which is a little bit different for this area,” he said. “But we do like the product, and we like that package.”
The company’s TOV program “will be 100 per pallet,” he said. That will be “again a small program” this year, “continuing to make sure that we have the right varieties and quality down right before we continue to expand. the same with our red bell pepper program,” which has 90 boxes per pallet. It, like the TOVs, continues as a trial program, “to get the kinks out and come back in future years with better production there.”
For all of the products mentioned, he said, Calavo and its growers have audited Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices in place. “We also have our audited GAPS and GMPs in place to forward distribution centers.”
The operation is also C-TPAT-certified and CCOI-compliant, he said. “We have our GS-1 data bar PLU-stickering program” and is PTI-compliant to date. On beefsteak tomatoes, the company has CHEP pallet programs, he said.
“Our sales types continue in the way of f.o.b. as well as our ad programs, which continue to expand with retail and foodservice, and our contractual programs, which are always and forever expanding as well,” he said.
As in the past, Calavo’s Nogales operation continues to ship out of two distribution centers in the Nogales area. One, designated the Calavo North building, is “where we handle our vine-ripe program and our Roma tomato program” as well as beefsteak tomatoes, TOVs and “our red bell pepper program,” Mr. Badillo said. The Calavo South building is “where we handle our mature green tomato ripening and distribution program.”
Marc Mendivil continues on sales in Nogales, and “Daniella Sein’s role continues to expand into sales,” Mr. Badillo said. Additionally, Calavo’s corporate sales team is expanding.
For the coming year, “consistency and dependability will continue to be our program,” he said. On the whole, “our production will be similar to last year. We are expecting high-quality mature green, vine-ripe and Roma production starting approximately December 15” with TOVs and vine-ripe beefsteak tomatoes. Red bell peppers should kick in sometime around the first of January. All programs will continue working through the first of June.
Another program that will continue to be consistent at Calavo, he said, is “our big-size tomato program.” Customers “will be able to depend on us” again to pack “heavy into size 28s and larger on our beefsteak program, heavy into 5x5s and larger on our two-layer program and heavy into our extra large and jumbo vine-ripe and mature green tomato programs.”
The company makes “continued advances” in its structural technology and in its growing, packing and distribution expertise, Mr. Badillo said. In every year, there is a learning curve in shadehouse and greenhouse production, and “every year we get better at … growing the product that suits our customers’ needs” That leads to continual improvements in “what matters most to us, and that is our customer satisfaction.”
When customers call, he said, “We want to be able to say yes. We work hard at doing that.”