Today’s consumers are more educated and interested in where their food comes from, making food safety, traceability and safe environmental growing practices more of a concern. In Nogales, Arizona, farmer-owned Trufresh, formed out of two of the most established growers in the Sonora region, is answering these questions by delivering high-quality fresh produce backed by sustainable production, stringent food safety protocols, traceability and leading post-harvest technology.
Rafel Roiz, president of Trufresh, runs the business with close-to-home, direct grower connections and deep-rooted relationships. “Four years ago a couple of the largest growers in Sonora, Mexico, called me and asked if I wanted to open my own distribution company to sell their products,” he recounts. “Both growers have 20 years in the industry and they wanted to join forces with me.”
With this strong partnership, Trufresh began and Roiz formulated a five-year plan to steadily assume all distribution of the two large-scale growers’ products. “The plan was to steadily take over the volume because it was too much to take on immediately,” he says. “The first year, Trufresh distributed 1 million packages; the third year we did 3 million, 6 million the fourth year and so on.”
With 2016 quickly approaching, Roiz says Trufresh is in good standing to complete this five-year plan and assume the full volume of produce generated from grower-partners in Sonora. Since inception, Roiz’s goal has been to foster strong ties between growers and retailers.
Shipping out of Nogales, Trufresh serves retailers across the United States and Canada. “With our sales based in the U.S., we have been able to make close connections,” says Roiz. “The importance of food safety is huge today – stores want to know where the product is coming from. Since we offer more control in terms of food safety, we are more appealing to retailers.”
When Roiz goes to meet with major retailers such as Kroger and Safeway, he often invites growers to join him. “Sometimes I even bring the growers to meet retail customers,” he says. “This face-to-face meeting helps build these important connections.”
As a vertically integrated grower-packer-shipper, Trufresh offers some 28 different vegetable commodities: green, red, orange, yellow and mini bell peppers; different varieties of cucumbers and summer squash; grape, cherry and Roma tomatoes; cantaloupe, honeydew melon, seedless, seeded and mini watermelons and more.
Currently, about 70 percent of Trufresh products are grown in field-house production style and 30 percent are open-field grown. “We’re currently looking at alternate regions such as Baja and Chihuahua to grow open-field hot peppers when it is too hot in the summer in Sonora,” notes Roiz.
Trufresh excels in its open-field hot pepper program, marketing and distributing jalapenos, serrano, Caribe, Anaheim, red Fresno, pasilla, habanero and tomatillo hot peppers. “We have the largest hot pepper program that is Global Food Safety certified,” says Roiz.
“For years, retail stores have turned to the L.A. market to purchase hot peppers, but there’s a lot of brokering and not a lot of transparency – they have no idea where the product comes from and this is an issue,” explains Roiz.
Trufresh has gone above and beyond in terms in building see-through business and trust with its customers. The company hires various third-party consultants to audit its facilities and practices and Trufresh farms have independent social responsibility certifications, as well as Fair Trade Certification, all highly regarded in the industry.
Trufresh remains committed to consistency in delivering the highest quality, wholesome produce –grown, harvested and packed under its direct supervision. “We’re consolidating operations in Sonora, but at the same time we’re looking for different growing regions because we don’t want to have all our eggs in one basket and we want to promote a year-round supply,” says Roiz.
With more than 28 varieties of fresh, traceable produce and counting, Trufresh is making its mark as the go-to for grower-retailer relations and strict food safety standards.