The Giumarra Companies: Cultivating Clusters of Agricultural Activity

Giuseppe Giumarra emigrated with his father from Sicily to the United States in the early 1900s, bringing with him the family's legacy of cultivating grapes and nurturing dreaming. Eventually settling in Los Angeles, Calif., Giuseppe planted the seeds of his personal dream: to feed the world in a healthy way. In 1922 Giuseppe established a small stall in the market on 7th St. in downtown L.A.; here he would sell only the finest produce sourced from nearby Orange County. This process of brokering wholesale fruits and vegetables would set the tradition of excellence that still sits at the core of The Giumarra Companies (Giumarra), an international agribusiness empire in its fourth generation of providing family-led reliability when it comes to growing, packing, processing, bottling, importing and exporting virtually any type of fresh produce item, from apples to zucchini, though a large majority of activity drapes on the family's historical green thumb when it comes to grapes.

The company is currently headed by cousins Sal Giumarra, president, and John Giumarra, vice president, and their children represent the fourth generation of the Giumarra family learning how to manage and enrich the highly diversified privately held business. "We’re a farming company at our core, and a big farming company, we’re the second-largest employer in Kern County other than the county itself, but we’re also a winery and produce wine under our own label, as well as grape concentrate, which we sell to a number of different food companies in the U.S.," reveals John, who has been with the company since 1967 and manages all non-farming divisions of the company. "And that's just the beginning. We're also a bottler of beverages, we sell produce and products to foodservice distributors, plus we market both our produce and that of growers in the United States and from other countries, including Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Chile."

New Possibilities Cropping Up

Sourcing and processing the produce for this diverse portfolio -- for strategic brands and partners including Grape King, Perfect Pick, ARRAcado, Nature's Partner, Hansen (the parent company of the Monster and Khaos energy drink brands), as well as the AriZona Beverage Co., among many others -- involves a workforce of over 3,000 valued members tending over 10,000 acres, many of them across the southern San Joaquin region of California's Central Valley, with some northern ranches reaching up to Fresno County.

Here crops, including table grapes, wine grapes, citrus (primary navel oranges), melons, berries, some stone/tree fruit, avocados, tomatoes, peppers, asparagus and potatoes, plus several more, are coordinated from headquarters in Bakersfield. In addition, Giumarra maintains satellite offices in Los Angeles and Escondido, Calif.; Nogales, Ariz.; Portland, Ore.; Wenatchee, Wash.; Denver, Colo.; as well as in New Jersey and Florida. Key people help run these operations, as well as Giumarra's nearly 10 divisions, but all report back to members of the Giumarra family, who consider their direct involvement to be imperative to maintaining the standards associated with the company's name and its products.

It's a large operation to maintain, but the family and its carefully vetted employees do it with aplomb. Employees are as deeply invested in Giumarra's operations as the family itself because they are shown great respect and appreciation. They are provided a competitive wage, paid health and life insurance, a pension plan and vacation benefits. In addition, an ongoing safety awards program recognizes those who put accountability above all else. And grower partners uphold these same standards of labor relations, safety, quality and applying advanced technologies to reinforce Giumarra's commitment to sourcing, packaging and distributing product for some of the finest brands in the produce industry.

Product is marketed to supermarkets and wholesalers in each major city throughout the U.S. and Canada, while a third of the crops are exported around the world. "Table grapes that we grow in California are selling major quantities in China, in Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, and we also market in Europe," reveals John. "We have worldwide distribution, but we never forget our domestic partners. Over the years we’ve done business with the major supermarkets, like Safeway and Kroger and Publix and A&P. And, of course, new ones have come on the scene, like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club and Costco."

Grape Expectations

Giumarra is acknowledged as a key source for the most wholesome, best tasting, and safest produce, but the company actively researches how it can provide even more to its valued strategic partners. For example, the company's crossbreeding division continually attempts to create new varieties of table grapes to fill the consumer's desire for enhanced flavor, and the farmers desire for increased yield. "From the supermarket you know a Thompson Seedless [green grapes] and the Flame Seedless [red grapes], but those are old varieties that have been around a long, long time, particularly the Thompson seedless, which has been around over 100 years," shares John.

"What farmers are trying to do is find new varieties of table grapes that taste better than the old ones and are more productive on the ranch, yielding more boxes per acre,” he continues. “What we do is cross two varieties, A and B, seeking to obtain C, which will hopefully be better than A and B. We are one of the largest crossbreeding companies in the world; we create new varieties of table grapes and many of them have been planted not only on our ranches, but also in countries around the world from Egypt to Italy to Spain to Chile to South Africa and on and on. We are now licensing these new varieties to growers so they can be grown throughout the world."

Introducing 10 new grape varieties (alongside two dozen more, including Early Sweet Seedless, Golden Globe Seedless, Sugarone, Princess Seedless, Red Globe and more) in the last three years is just one of the ways Giumarra has applied its resources to benefit its customers. The company also makes ongoing infrastructure investments to its packaging and bottling divisions, adding new equipment as new pack styles are required. Grapes are available in poly zip and slide bags, fixed weight poly bags, clam shells and conventional naked pack, and bottles/cans are varied, too. "It used to be primarily 12 ounce cans, but then it was 16 ounce cans and 24 ounce cans, and as our partners introduce by new packaging we implement the equipment to run it," emphasizes John. In addition, trucks and trailers are routinely updated for the fields (distribution trucking is outsourced).

In the near future John sees the company further strengthening its market position through further marketing of partner products, which is a sector that can grow quickly while further vines are being planted and nurtured in the company's own fields. A 50,000 square foot refrigerated produce terminal assures that Giumarra can provide the best service when it comes to buying, consolidating, delivery and marketing assistance of all personal and partner crops. There are some things Giumarra can't control, such as the weather, but for everything else the company has proven time and time again its ability to act efficiently and responsibly.

Never forgetting its roots in personal interaction and customer satisfaction, The Giumarra Companies still operates a division from the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market near where Giuseppe Giumarra began, and the family will continue to build on its longstanding tradition of fresh, affordable produce, as it has successfully for a century.