La Casa del Aguacate began years ago in Mexico selling top quality fresh avocados to the Mexican market and No. 2 fruit to processors for guacamole. About five years ago, the family-owned operation began selling to U.S. distributors and two years ago it launched its own sales and marketing department, selling its Mexican fruit directly to U.S. retailers, wholesalers and foodservice operators.
Arturo Larios, CEO, recently explained the operation to The Produce News. His brother Alex Larios is the chief operating officer and runs the Mexico part of the deal from south of the border. The CEO noted that this control of the product from the groves in Mexico to the buyers’ distribution centers in the United States is the company’s point of distinction.
“We have a harvest company in Mexico that picks the crop; we have a trucking company in Mexico to take the fruit from the field to the packinghouse and we control the trucking from the packinghouse to the border,” Larios said.
Astrid Tapia, marketing and communications manager added, “We control every step of the avocado journey on both sides of the border. It is much more efficient this way.”
She added that the company’s relative youth give it a fresh perspective on the marketplace and the flexibility to create new options for customers looking for a fresh start to its avocado program.
While the company is relatively new in the U.S. market with its translated “House of Avocado” label, Larios said there is a trend of more companies with Mexican roots competing in the U.S. market. “For the last 10-15 years, there were eight or nine (U.S.-based) companies controlling most of the volume. We are seeing that starting to change.”
He believes it is very important to keep eyes on the product from the field to the U.S. distribution center. Currently La Casa del Aguacate imports seven to eight loads per week into the United States with 95 percent being conventional fruit and a relatively small amount of organic avocado cartons rounding out the volume. “Our goal is to grow to 15-17 loads per week in the near future,” he said.
Though the company does control a very small amount of its own acreage, Larios said for the most part it competes with other packing sheds on an ongoing basis buying fruit directly from growers and then harvesting it and bringing it to the packing facility. He noted that the facility has the capability of packing in any container the customer wants from RPCs to corrugated cartons, including both bulk and bagged avocados. He added the capacity of the packingshed is far beyond current utilization, so they have lots of room for growth.
All of the avocados come into the United States through the company’s Texas distribution center. La Casa del Aguacate also has a D.C. in the Los Angeles area, another in New Jersey and is currently in the process of securing a Florida facility.
Larios said the company is working with buyers all over the country representing a wide variety of businesses including large and small chain stores, as well as foodservice providers and wholesalers. Rick Johnston is vice president of sales, with a staff of several, including salesman Randy Huerta and New York-based salesman Ricardo Mora.
Tapia is handling the marketing end of the business working with retailers on promotional programs, offering point of sale material and social media support.