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The secret is out about GR Fresh

Sometimes telling secrets is a good thing. Often referred to as the “the best kept secret” in the produce business, maintaining that position is not in the plans of Tony Incaviglia, the vice president of sales and marketing of the McAllen, TX-based firm with the DBA GR Fresh.

GR Fresh has a new focus on custom growing — providing products to fill specific and existing customer demand. Value-added packing is another new feature at GR Fresh. With these changes, “We are into more retailers and upgrading our customers,” Incaviglia said.

Tony-IncavigliaTony IncavigliaThe company is owned by Grupo GR in Torreón, Mexico. GR are the initials of the founder Juan Gonzalez Reyes, who had two sons and eight daughters. Gonzalez started the firm in 1943.

In the early 1990s, GR Fresh was among Mexico’s first growers to open a McAllen, TX warehouse. This strategy was bolstered by the expectation of eventually utilizing Federal Highway 40, which recently opened between Mazatlán and Reynosa. This fast, ultra-modern highway across Mexico’s high mountain spine is greatly building the importance of McAllen as a distribution point for west Mexico product.

Today, Gonzalez’ grandsons Antonio Villalobos and Luis Webb and son Miguel Gonzalez run the company.

“If you count all we do, we’re one of the largest growers in Mexico,” said Incaviglia, who joined GR Fresh three and a half years ago.

Incaviglia said GR Fresh operates between 8,000 and 10,000 acres of Mexican farmland. The company ships year-round and produces virtually a full line of fresh produce. Tomatoes of many varieties are product list staple items. GR Fresh also grows and ships bell peppers, cucumbers and eggplant and well as a variety of hot peppers. Culiacan is a major growing point for such items.

In Guanajuato, GR Fresh is rapidly increasing its production of Western vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, romaine, iceberg and red and green leaf lettuce. GR Fresh produced some of these vegetables to sell to processors in the past, but packing for the retail fresh market is a recent line extension. The firm also grows pomegranates, shipping from late August until the end of October, and a large-volume pecan grower.

Because GR Fresh has operated in Mexico for more than 70 years, the firm is very well connected with other growers. If the management chooses to expand its product list — to berries or avocados, for example — they have the relationships to make such expansions.

Incaviglia said the firm ships across the United States and Canada, but many of those associations begin in Texas where GR Fresh has the closest retail partners. Those customers, in turn, connect GR to the rest of the huge market. In addition to McAllen, GR Fresh has a Texas warehouse in San Antonio.

GR Fresh serves West Coast customers through its facilities in Nogales and Los Angeles.