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Mercator: Matching American Products with Foreign Customers
In 2011 the U.S. became a net exporter of beef for the first time in 40 years, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA expects that the trend will continue throughout 2012 due in part to a reduction in imports from foreign producers and also an increased demand for U.S.-grown beef overseas. Mercator Incorporated (Mercator), an export company based in Raleigh, N.C., is helping North American food producers to find a market for their products worldwide.
The company was founded in 2003 by Jose Luis Martinez, a veteran of the food industry who graduated from college with a Masters of Business Administration in International Trade and refined his experience at a number of high-profile trade companies prior to starting the Mercator group.
Mercator currently exports and distributes beef, pork, turkey and chicken, dairy and grains produced in North America to buyers in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Puerto Rico and South Korea. Martinez outlines the advantages of using Mercator as follows:
“North America is a large market with a wealth of opportunity, but it is also a mature market with intense competition from domestic and foreign producers. We are approaching the day when we will be doing business in a single ‘global market’ instead of foreign and domestic markets. For most, food and agricultural trading is not only a way to maximize profits today, but also represents the future of business of tomorrow.”
Business is on the Rise
Business has been booming for Mercator and Mercator Mundi, its sister operation in Mexico. These partners recognize that 95 percent of the world’s population and two-thirds of total world purchasing power resides outside of the United States. The Mercator group operates with two facilities: Mercator in Raleigh, N.C., and Mercator Mundi in Guanajuato, Mexico. Both headquarters host associates, and the company also has personnel in other states strategically located to be on top of the leads and market trends. Mercator is currently building a new facility in North Carolina to accommodate additional employees, while the company in Mexico has recently finished building a new plant with freezers to store and process meat and dairy products to be distributed into Mexico. In addition, Mercator Mundi is opening outlets to consumers in other cities in the states of Guanajuato, Nuevo Leon, Queretaro and San Luis Potosi.
Martinez says that the company’s pork business is one of its most popular product lines and is fueling the company’s growth. The company ships pork products, including raw, fresh and frozen bone-in, boneless, primals and offals. Mercator also ships poultry products, such as turkey and chicken items, for wholesalers, distributors and further processing companies. Grains and pulses – including beans, lentils and peas – are all popular with Mexico and South American customers as well. This company also ships dairy, such as milk powder and ingredients for cheese, butter, ice creams and yogurts. Mercator is a place where producers, manufacturers and suppliers can find an alternative market to distribute their products and a space for consumers to develop ideas and solutions for their agriculture supply needs worldwide.
“We plan on targeting more markets in the Caribbean and South America, because there is a demand out there for food products grown or raised in North America,” adds Martinez. “It’s also a benefit to North American producers, because they’re expanding their customer base and not relying on one market to sell their goods at a fair price. It is also good for our communities because of the jobs and the support and appreciation to our farmers. Consumers in foreign markets are the perfect way to diversify.”
Martinez also attributes the company’s growth to the customized services that it provides for each of its clients. Mercator tracks each shipment internally to ensure that products arrive at their destinations intact and on time. The company does it work with an emphasis on reliability, confidentiality, market responsibility, discretion, and placing quality before quantity in the best interest of the customer.
Company Ships Efficiently from Strategic Locations
One of the ways that Mercator is different than a brokerage house or a commodity trader is that Mercator provides a complete market channel, taking possession of the commodities that it sells then directly arranging the most efficient inland or ocean transportation to promote and deliver bulk containers of competitively priced products worldwide. Martinez says that the company typically purchases its meat at slaughterhouses throughout North America and ships the frozen or fresh goods to four export locations around North America. Goods bound for Central American ship out of Florida; Mexican-bound goods ship from Texas; Asian-bound goods ship from California; and South American-bound goods ship out of Montreal, Canada.
“We do our best to market, represent and distribute our suppliers while we serve and satisfy our customer’’s needs for agriculture supply,” adds Martinez. “Rather than being brokers, traders or trade leads followers, we think and operate as marketing specialists who distribute to the world market.”
Martinez further explains that it’s a popular misconception that only large companies can succeed overseas. “Many small companies have found that their competitive advantage lies in some form of technological or creative advantage,” he says. “Many have a ‘unique’ or ‘niche-type’ product that is in demand in other markets.” Mercator supports these suppliers with identifying markets for their products through a commitment to integrity, service and innovation.
As certain developing countries continue to improve their economies, their citizens have the desire and purchasing power to demand access to a more stable and diverse food supply. North American farmers have been supplying food to international customers since the 1800s. Under Jose Luis Martinez’s leadership, the Mercator companies are bridging the link between buyers and sellers in an easy-to-use format that ensures fresh and frozen product delivery, and Mercator’s plans to expand its roster of destination countries will continue to strengthen its position in the industry.