Mexico to become top year round supplier
Mexico is well on its way to becoming the number one, year round supplier of greenhouse vegetables for the North American market. The technical, capabilities and ambitions of the Mexican growers are increasingly important. Nowadays it is hard to find a difference between a Mexican tomato versus a U.S. or Canadian grown piece of fruit. If it is up to Fried de Schouwer of GPC, Mexico will become the most important supplier on a year round basis for North America. “Our growers have become fully dedicated to delivering high quality produce, year round.”
Almost 10 years ago, Fried de Schouwer was one of the founders of Greenhouse Produce Company LLC (GPC); a joint effort by Mexican growers that was created in order to achieve a stronger sales organization and create better access to the market. By combining their unique strengths and neutralizing each others’ weaknesses, GPC is a more successful grower coalition which can better respond to US retailer’s demands.
“Thanks to the cooperation between smaller and larger growers, we are able to streamline the marketing of smaller Mexican growers”, Fried tells us when explaining the activities of GPC. “We work as a collective group; from selecting the right varieties to packing and shipping, all of our growers work closely together and benefit from each others excellence and expertise.”
Central packing warehouse
As an example, Fried tells us about the packing and shipping from the smaller growers. “We have growers that only produce a few pallets a day, but thanks to our logistical network, one truck can pick up several pallets from smaller growers and consolidate them at our central packing and coldstore facility in Celaya. This enables us to improve the quality of the pack.”
GPC currently has around 200 hectares divided over 25 growers. “We grow the full range of greenhouse vegetables in both high tech and medium tech greenhouses; tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers. Around 15 percent of our current export is certified organic.”
According to Fried, the medium tech growers are able to grow a very good quality crop within a shorter season. “They are mostly located in a moderate micro climate where they simply do not need any high tech requirements such as glass greenhouses or full time heating. They are dedicated to certain production periods; for example 3 months of harvest in the spring and 3 months of harvest in advance of the colder winter period. In these seasons they are very successful. In the periods when it is too hot or too cold, the high tech growers are filling the gaps. That enables us to supply a consistent quality throughout the entire year.”
Top left: the team of GPC at the Expo AgroAlimentaria in Mexico last month. Bottom left and right side : At the show a large number of mid tech cultivations were on display. The quality of these crops was phenomenal.
Marketing niche: the medium to smaller retailer
GPC specializes in marketing produce as a ’boutique’ like operator. “We try to add value through service by giving medium size growers market transparency and access to certain beneficial markets. We try not to compete with the larger produce marketing companies from Canada or the US and their affiliate seasonal Mexican growers. We are more committed to the Mexican growers wellbeing on a full-time basis.
The strategy that GPC applies has proven to be successful: everyday, 3-4 trucks collect small batches of produce at local growers, GPC packs and sorts the product at a central Mexican location prior to being shipped to a secondary quality control border warehouse either in Nogales, Arizona or McAllen, Texas, USA. All of the product gets a final packing, sorting and quality check before it is being shipped on to the final receiving customer.
The customers of GPC are all kinds of retailers; from national supermarkets, club stores, regional super markets to smaller super market chains with less than 50 stores. Regardless of the chainstore; the focus remains on consistency of quality produce.
According to Fried, the biggest advantage for retailers to buy from a small company like GPC is the personal touch. “We are a small player in the market who is able to add value through flexibility and personal attention. A retailer requires full attention from its suppliers, a personal touch combined with the necessary flexibility to facility the just in time delivery. At GPC we are able to deliver the much needed flexibility by running the extra mile. In most cases, larger suppliers are not interested in fulfilling this need. Each supplier big or small needs to find its niche.”