In part one of this two-part series, we got to know the people who make up the Vanguard Direct Bakersfield office, learn about its inception and a bit of the “we own it” culture that defines this unique group of industry veterans. In case you missed it, catch up on that here.
During Vanguard Direct’s early days, Peru was emerging as a leading grape-growing region, a title previously held by the Chilean and South African regions. Unlike grapes imported from Chile, which have required fumigation before entering the USA until now, Peruvian grapes were exempt from this process and only required cold treatment, which is much better for the fruit. This distinction proved to be a significant advantage for retailers. With Peruvian grapes, orders could be fulfilled more rapidly, and in a time when supply chain management already had enough moving variables, this offered seasonal security to valued customers.
Once firmly established in Peru, next came variety selection. This process involved considering the availability of different varieties suitable for planting in Peru. To be fully transparent, it was also a lot of trial and error. Constant discussions with our customers played a vital role in navigating and honing in on the ideal portfolio mix of varieties. One advantage we have had in Peru is an accelerated timeline for reaching commercial crop volumes. In as little as 16 months, compared to 3 years in Chilean fields, we can transition from testing to a fully productive crop, giving us the ability to test and change varieties much more quickly than other production regions around the world.
In the first year, our grape offering was predominately red seedless varieties, but due to changing customer interests, we are growing more green varietals than any other now.
Even with all the upside to growing in Peru, we were not without our challenges. “We are competing against the other grape growers in Peru, often growing the same varieties,” shared Gene Coughlin – Vice President of Sales. “Certain retailers are excited to re-energize the grape industry, especially the premium retailers. We are providing strategic selection and unmatched service to those retailers that will pay for a premium product.” Tammy Collum, Senior Sales Representative adds, “When it comes to our current economy, I think the consumers will first consider the taste of the grapes, and then look at the price to decide if it is worth it. Does the consumer feel the value justifies the cost? Consumers are evaluating their shopping list and making some hard decisions.”
We asked the Bakersfield team for their future predictions of Vanguard Direct’s path. First up, Gene Coughlin. “Following the model of grapes, we will look to source different commodities for our customers in North America. We believe that it is important to get to a 52-week supply to continue our success.”
Ethan Williams, Sales Manager adds, “Informing the customer of what we can truly provide. Vanguard Direct is so much bigger than the headcount of our USA-based team. The resources we can draw on from our global counterparts within the Vanguard International Group at Vanguard International and Vanguard Peru generate a significant amount of value for our customers both in North America and globally.”
There is no doubt Peru is quickly becoming the global grape leader. “Nothing will stop Peru from being an 80M+ box producer of table grapes, shared Gene Coughlin. “Our company mission, ‘Focused on the right fruit to the right customer, flawlessly performed’ is a key differentiator driving our growth around the globe. It’s an exciting time to be a member of the Vanguard International Group family.”