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Ray & Mascari celebrating firm’s 75th anniversary in 2013

This year, Ray & Mascari Inc. will celebrate its 75th year of operation. “We are so excited about that,” Vice President Joseph (Rocky) Ray told The Produce News. “The Ray family has certainly been blessed over the years. Our father and grandfather, Mike Ray Sr., truly deserves all the credit for our success.”

Although Mike Ray Sr. died on April 19, 1995, his legacy lives on. “He bestowed in us a passion for this business and, through his example, an opportunity to do something great,” Ray said. RayMascariRay & Mascari Inc. began operations in 1938. In 1960, the company began specializing in the repacking of fresh tomatoes. Standing are Chief Operating Officer Jason Ray, Vice President of Sales Rocky Ray, President Mike Ray Jr., Chief Financial Officer Michael A. Ray and Packaging Director Michael Annee. Seated is Vice President Joseph Ray. (Photo courtesy of Ray & Mascari)“His work ethic and resolve to succeed was instilled in us at an early age. My grandfather was a great man who knew how to treat other people. Through hard work and sacrifice, he gave Ray & Mascari the reputation of integrity and quality that we enjoy today.”

As for a special commemoration, Ray said the tribute will be a fitting one. “In his honor, it is business as usual at Ray & Mascari,” he commented. I think [grandfather] would have wanted that way.”

Ray was asked how the dynamics of the Indianapolis market have changed since the company’s inception.

“The dynamics of the market have changed immensely,” he replied. “I can remember delivering out to the terminal market. Back then, there were so many businesses, each having their own niche in the market. There has been so much consolidation, just over the past 20 years, that the playing field has definitely changed. We have fewer produce companies in Indy. But the ones that remain are much larger. Today, instead of competing with each other, we find ourselves competing with surrounding states, with a much bigger picture than we were looking at in the past.”

The challenges faced by the industry and companies are both different and, at the same time, unchanged. “The produce market moves so quickly today, and we must be ready to react to our customers’ needs.” Summing up these challenges, he said companies must be willing to change to meet conditions in the marketplace.

At the time of its founding, Ray & Mascari handled a full manifest of commodities. In 1960, the company began to specialize in the repacking of fresh tomatoes. Ray & Mascari also moves bell peppers and cucumbers, and continues to explore other items that work well with transportation of tomatoes.

Ray & Mascari services retail and foodservice customers in the Midwest and East Coast. “Generally, we tend to service a 400-mile radius around Indianapolis, with some straight load volume reaching the East Coast,” Ray said. Private label currently accounts for 25 percent of the company’s total sales.

Production for the 2013 tomato season was winding up in Palmetto, Florida, at the beginning of June.

“We have new growing areas starting,” Ray said. “Baja, California, is increasing in volume this week, with northern California into more volume by June 10. Quincy, Florida, starts June 7 with South Carolina and Tennessee starting June 10 to15. This should alleviate the higher prices that we have experienced this spring.”

Ray & Mascari now operates seven packinglines.

“We have doubled the size of two of our packinglines to incorporate more packers as our added volume demands,” Ray noted. “This year, we added a new 3,500-square-foot cooler. We have also rolled out five new retail items over the past year.”

The company works to meet the highest food safety standards and is now SQF 2000 Level 2 certified. “Since the hiring of our full-time food-safety director, Dave Henry, in 2011, Ray & Mascari strives for quality and continuous improvement,” he added.