IPR Fresh, which was founded in 2003, started out as a produce brokerage business, but “we have been growing on the shipper side as we distribute produce directly now” from growers in Mexico, said Jose Luis Obregon, president of the company, in an interview with The Produce News, one year to the day from the day he joined his brothers and father in the family business.
In particular, he said, “We are increasing our bell pepper availability. That is what we are focusing on. We want to be known as a premium bell pepper shipper here in Nogales, “ and that is the main thing the company is looking for in aligning with growers.
“It doesn’t mean that if an opportunity arises with some other commodities that we do handle through our brokerage business, we won’t analyze that,” Mr. Obregon said. In fact, “we have been talking to various other growers” who do grow other commodities. “But at this point, it is only bell peppers that we are going to be handling” through the new grower relationships the company is establishing.
That is, however, in addition to “the ones that we already do handle,” he added.
IPR has been involved with marketing colored bell peppers from growers in Mexico for the last three years. “This year, we are also going to be doing green bells directly from growers from the Culiacan area” in the state of Sinaloa, Mr. Obregon said. Those were scheduled to start the last week in November.
The new grower deals mean that IPR has “increased volume to offer” this season, he said. Along with that, the company has been honing in on the needs of customers “and increasing our load consolidation business. We have been successful at that. We’ve gotten great accounts here” and have been picking up product that meets “the right specs for the customers. We continue to increase that side of the business as well. So our shipping business is increasing with the additional volume, and our brokering business is increasing.”
New on sales this season at IPR is George Hardwick, “a produce veteran who has been around many years,” Mr. Obregon said. Mr. Hardwick was sales manager at Al Harrison Co. for about eight years, spent about two years with Coastal Marketing and “most recently was with the Timco Food Source office here in Nogales handling their melon business.” In all, Mr. Hardwick has more than 25 years of food industry experience on both the sales side and the procurement side.
“He brings to the sales team a lot of experience, a lot of new contacts, and a little diversity,” Mr. Obregon added.
A press release IPR issued in October announced the hiring of Mr. Hardwick “to fill a new sales representative position” and quoted Sales Manager Enrique Obregon as saying, “I am very enthusiastic about George helping take IPR Fresh to the next level. IPR Fresh is renowned for our October through June bell pepper program, and along with strategic plans to augment our customized services, this coming season we are looking forward to increasing our colored bell pepper volume.”
The release also quoted Jose Luis Obregon as saying that “IPR Fresh is geared up for our tenth season with a fresh approach to our brand and services.” Among other things, “we’ve moved to a new office located next to our warehouse, which gives us the opportunity to make sure the product we ship meets our customers’ standards — and ours.”
The new office location is in the Rio Rico Industrial Park, in close proximity to the heaviest concentration of produce warehouses in the Nogales area, Mr. Obregon said in the Nov. 14 interview. “We are just five minutes away from everybody, so we can see all the product, and we can pick out the correct [product] for our customers.
IPR also developed, during the past summer, a new strategic plan, a new visual image with “a fresher look,” and a new website incorporating the new image, he said. The new logo features the tagline, “Freshness delivered.”
The newly adopted strategic plan “directs us to find additional product and some volume directly from growers,” he said. “So this coming year, we are going to have new growers that are going to be sending us product,” which will increase the company’s shipper business.
To date this season, business is sup about 25 percent in volume over last year, Mr. Obregon said.