Getting to know Jensen Chou, behind the produce
23 11月 2020

Behind the Produce with Jensen Chou

Jensen is our Marketing Manager for Taiwan and has been with us for the last 18 years. A veteran of the produce industry prior to joining Vanguard, Jensen worked in the steamship line industry which serves as a crucial link in the supply chain. Referred to as ‘our man on-the-ground in Taiwan’, Jensen is a true insider, welcomed, respected, and liked by all. He is a master diplomat managing relations with our Taiwanese customers and has earned the trust of our global grower base.  Jensen is an avid (and brilliant) photographer. His photographs make you understand the quote “Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like. “

Let’s get to know Jenson a little more!

 VG: Has Taiwan always been home or did you re-locate for work?   

Jensen: I was born in Fukien Province of China. When I was two, my family immigrated to Taiwan from China. My life has been very rooted in Taiwan, including my education, career, marriage, children, and so on. It is correct to say that I am Taiwanese, but also Chinese in a way.  

VG: Have you always been destined for produce? Where did your career start?

Jensen: Definitely. I spent five years studying agriculture during my high school days. I took two years of forestry in university, and then I transferred to a major in Chinese Literature in my junior and senior years. After university graduation, I worked in the shipping industry for over twenty years in Taiwan. My last job in that field was Reefer Trade Manager of the shipping company OOCL. This role propelled my career in the produce business, allowed me to become familiar with all the major fruit importers in Taiwan, and gain the fundamental knowledge about the produce industry. In 2001, I met Vanguard CEO Craig Stauffer when he was on a visit to Taiwan. We kept in contact in the years that followed. I think that it was my relationships with the Taiwan fruit importers that led Craig to recruit me to open the Vanguard office in Taiwan in 2003. This was a pivotal moment of my career after the age of 50 and I was fortunate to join an international company with a broad-vision, inclusive team spirit, excellent management and hard-working service-minded attitude.     

VG: You’ve been in the produce game for a long time. Has the latest global pandemic surfaced any shocking new challenges for your team that have surpassed those of previous years? 

Jensen:  The pandemic poses many impacts to Taiwan and the rest of the world. Taiwan has closed its borders to international tourists since March. As a result, local business sectors were seriously affected, most notably, hotels, travelling agencies, transportation providers, restaurants, and all ways of life. Consequently, when people live with less incomes, often, fruit consumption is one of the first items to be reduced on their shopping lists. Even with this adversity, the latest economic index showed Taiwan still enjoyed 3.3% GDP growth in the 3rd quarter of 2020 and Vanguard has continued its business in a strong and steady manner. Taiwan is gradually recovering from the pandemic after successful measures to control COVID-19 spread.

VG: What is your philosophy on leading and supporting your team? 

Jensen: As I am not directly on-the-ground with our growers and fruit sources overseas, what I can do in Taiwan is facilitate our sales between our customers and our sales teams, making sure that things carry on as smoothly as possible. Firstly, I try to maintain and enhance our relationships with customers as it is the base of our business. Open and transparent communication with our customers is equally important. With my past experience in shipping, I have helped our customers get fruit shipped as early as possible, and when there is any hiccup, I work with the rest of our team to solve the problem quickly for the benefit of everyone. I provide first-hand market information to our team, to watch how our customers are performing in Taiwan without being misleading. My philosophy is, as a “middleman”, to help our customers in Taiwan solve problems when they occur as quickly and efficiently as possible.

VG: What has been a memorable moment for you during your time working for Vanguard? 

Jensen: I have been with Vanguard for over 18 years.  It is very satisfying to note that despite the normal negotiations on obtaining orders, pricing, solving claims, and securing timely payments, we have never experienced any bad debts. I am pleased the most with the fact that we have never had any bad debt in Taiwan in that long period of time. As far as memorable moments go, we can celebrate many successes but I am the most proud of growing our joint marketing of our San Clement Chilean Fuji program over the years.  This program has been a great success for over 15 years.  It is always very gratifying to me to act as Vanguard’s Ambassador when we have overseas grower/packers visit Taiwan.   These visits involve many meetings and market visits.  I’m very proud of Vanguard’s superb reputation in Taiwan and pleased of the part that I can play to uphold that image.

VG: What does your free time look like?

Jensen: As a Christian, I regularly spend time reading the Bible and attending church activities. Other than that, photography is my favorite hobby. Twice every year, I will usually take an overseas trip with the purpose of taking photos. In the past 6 or 7 years, I have been to Slovenia, Croatia, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Hokkaido in Japan, Toronto/Montreal in Canada, Xinjian in China, Ireland, the UK, Paris in France, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Iceland, and the South Island in New Zealand… so many good memories and moments to recall! Just when I was planning the trip to Czech and Hungary in 2020, things were interrupted by the pandemic. I’ve switched my photo focus to Taiwan and spending time intensively examining what a beautiful island I have been living on for decades!

VG: Do you have a favorite produce item? If so, how do you prefer to eat it?

Jensen: Yes! My favorite fruits are apple and oranges as they usually create the least problems! Ha ha! Actually, Taiwan grows lots of produce locally, to name a few:  bananas, lychees, mangos, apples, starfruits, pineapple, guavas, oranges, and watermelon. Our family normally has at least two or three different options at home as it has become routine for us to eat fruit after every meal. Bananas and guavas are my real favorites, as they are local, inexpensive, ready to eat, and available all year round.  I also like California and our Peruvian grapes!