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North American Produce Buyers reaps benefits from joint venture

North American Produce Buyers Ltd. is having its most successful year ever, and one reason is a joint venture the company entered into two years ago.

The family-owned business prides itself not only on family values like integrity and honesty, but also on an ability to adapt to changing needs in the industry.

North American photo1Steven, Larry and Howard Davidson are pleased the response to North American’s joint venture with Gesex has been so strong. (Photo courtesy of Larry Davidson)Launching Summit Produce Inc. in Fresno, CA, is an example of that ability to read the marketplace.

Summit is a 50-50 joint venture company between North American and the Chilean company Gesex, one of that country’s larger exporters of fresh fruit. Summit is able to offer customers product from Gesex and other exporters directly on a program basis rather than just strict open-market selling.

“This allows the customer to have programs that are catered exactly to what their needs are,” said North American Vice President Larry Davidson. “Pack style and traceability issues are much more easily handled, as the product is coming right from a grower rather than hundreds of different growers.

He noted the company has enjoyed an excellent level of customer support and satisfaction, particularly on the retail end and especially with Gesex product.

Davidson sees the joint venture as an example of the need to adjust to industry changes. Some examples of issues driving change are traceability requirements, transportation regulations and the variation in customer needs.

Davidson noted that as in any business, you either adapt or you die.

“If you adapt, this is an industry where you can do very well,” he said. “Fortunately, people need to keep eating. They don’t need to keep buying computers, they don’t need to keep buying video games or cars, but they do need to keep eating.”

North American is a third-generation family-owned business, and Davidson sees that as another factor in the company’s growth. He and his brother see eye-to-eye on the fundamental values of the company, and, “I think that’s what led, quite frankly, to the success of our business as it’s grown.”

North American was started in 1960 by Morris Shoom and has been operating out of the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto ever since. Son-in-law Howard Davidson is the current president, with his sons Larry and Steven managing the day-to-day operations. The brothers have similar roles, both being involved in procurement, sales and the general managing of the business. The arrangement allows each one to manage a bit of free time, particularly when it comes to their young growing families.

That emphasis on family is evident when Davidson talks about the history of North American.

“I think at the end of the day, the foundation of our business is honesty and integrity with both our customers and our suppliers,” he said. “I think that’s how my grandfather did things, I believe that’s how my dad did things, and I believe that’s how we were brought up. Those two tenets are the foundation not just of how we run our business, but really how we live.”