In 1991 Americas Produce, owned by Harvey Pollak, as well as Carbon Produce, owned by Fernando Piaz, merged to form CarbAmericas Inc. (CarbAmericas). After one year of doing business Harvey bought out Fernando’s shares. CarbAmericas is currently owned by Harvey, CEO, as well as Jeff Friedman, president, and Daniel Pollak, vice president.
CarbAmericas was established as an import company to supply United States’ customers with off-season produce from Central and South America, with special emphasis on Peru. CarbAmericas concentrates on direct relationships with growers in order to offer consistent year-round supply of fresh fruits and vegetables to retail, wholesale and food service customers.
With the strong relationships the company has formed in the U.S., as well as in Latin America, CarbAmericas has started to focus on supplying product on a global platform, rather than just locally in the United States. “We are currently exporting product all over the world,” details Jeff. “We are evolving into a premier import and export company to work with, focusing on quality, food safety and customer service.”
The company’s corporate headquarters is located in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where CarbAmericas employs 13 people and has four persons involved with sales. “We have several remote offices located in Salinas, Calif.; Los Angeles, Calif.; San Francisco, Calif.; as well as New Jersey and San Paulo, Brazil.
CarbAmericas also holds ownership interests in packing plants in Mexico and Nicaragua, where the company roughly employs between 150 and 170 people, supporting the local towns with school supplies, health care and other social needs.
Reaching a broad demographic
Roughly 90 percent of the company’s business is focused on importing fresh fruits and vegetables to the United States. CarbAmericas is now just getting out of the learning curve of the IQF industry and the exportation of produce to other countries.
Danny has focused a lot of his time on the individually quick frozen foods sector, to where the company is now selling frozen asparagus spears, cuts and tips, strawberries, mango’s, tostones and maduro’s. The frozen product goes to the United States, as well as Belgium, Puerto Rico, Canada, Hong Kong and other Pacific Rim countries.
CarbAmericas sees a huge potential growth with the exportation of produce from country to country. “Example, we are selling New Zealand onions to Brazil; Chinese garlic to Brazil; California stone fruit to Brazil; Washington apples and pears to Brazil; asparagus from Mexico and Peru to Switzerland, Japan, Malayasia, Singapore and Dubai,” Jeff details. From a single office location in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the crew is making connections all over the world.
“Peruvian asparagus is our main produce item, but we also market mangoes, strawberries, blueberries and other fruits and vegetables,” Jeff explains. “We are branching out in Mexico right now to build relationships with asparagus growers, colored pepper growers and strawberry growers. We have quite a lot going on in Mexico. We also just built a new plant where we are handling asparagus for the first time. This is significant for us because of the lower growing costs in Mexico and fills a seasonal void when Peru ends their season. This move will help us continue to diversify while improving value for our buyers.”
While CarbAmericas buys, sells and markets produce, the company does not brand its own lines of produce as of yet. “Our years of building relationships with growers has built a demand for their label or brand, and our customers have come to recognize their quality and pride in what they put in their box,” Jeff explains. “AgroParacas, Danper and Chavin are our most recognizable grower brands. All of the processing and packing is done at the shipping point.”
With such a broad reach, Jeff considers the company’s true niche to be service and quality of products. “If we are out of a product to sell, we will go out and buy it to cover our orders,” he explains. “We are small enough to care, and large enough to serve”.
CarbAmericas has the relationships to back up this service. Logistics are huge for the business, considering Jeff and his team is moving time-sensitive produce all over the world. “We work with airlines, shipping companies and trucking companies to coordinate deliveries,” he explains. “We have some longstanding relationships with many of these partners, although it did take us some time to find the right people. We know they can handle our products well and deliver them in a timely manner.”
The produce business isn’t easy, but Jeff says his team – in and out of house – makes him excited to come into work every day. “The most interesting components of my job have to do with working with people,” he says. “I have a personal responsibility to my family and the company. Every day we come in and there is a new challenge. The produce business is in our blood.”
Future challenges abound in the company’s new operations in Mexico. Jeff and his team continue to make new connections throughout the world as the business expands. Meanwhile, the crew is taking steps at home to keep the business safe and profitable. Food safety is a huge concern for CarbAmericas. With facilities out of the country and produce coming in from all over, Jeff strives for consistent approval from the USDA and FDA. Newer developments in that arena include traceability and monitoring pesticide use.
The industry continues to evolve, creating a unique and challenging market. Between changing regulations and the fluctuations in the commodities market, the family business has been keeping up steadily. In the coming years, Jeff and his team are looking ahead to more of the same as CarbAmericas expands into new markets across the globe.