Chiquita expands deciduous brand through independent licensee
The Chiquita brand will carry on as a global name for deciduous fruits, despite the company's announcement in October that it would largely withdraw from the sector.
Following Chiquita's decision to focus on its core products - pineapples, bananas and salads - three former employees have taken the reins where the international brand left off.
International Fruit Company (IFC) president David Espinoza explained the exclusive licensing agreement that allows IFC to carry on the Chiquita brand as an independent operator in North America, Latin America and Asia.
"We’re going to do to the same business as Chiquita but operate under a different name and a different company, which is the International Fruit Company," he told www.freshfruitportal.com.
"Instead of eliminating the deciduous brand, we decided to pursue licensing for the brand and we have already started up and began working as a business on Jan. 1."
To start, IFC will focus primarily on grapes for the domestic market. The company's first grape shipment for U.S. consumers is expected to arrive from Chile in the next two to three weeks. Later in the year, the fruit will come from Mexico and California.
The domestic market is just the beginning, however. General manager Alex Bryant explained the company's plan to expand the Chiquita brand in Asia and Latin America.
"Our five year plan is to expand in Latin America, Asia and North America. We’ve had our brand in Asia for the past 10 years. We’re looking to expand that even more, especially with South Korea, China and Hong Kong," Bryant said.
"We want to work with synergy with Chiquita to expand the brand on the global level even more and participate in those developing countries, South American countries and expand Asia even more than we have the last three to five years. As we expand the Chiquita brand, we expand the IFC footprint also."
Through the Chiquita office in Shanghai, IFC is making plans for stronger brand recognition and developing method for expansion in Asia.
"We are going to position ourselves with retailers and clients in Asia. There is a Chiquita office in Shanghai where we are going to tend to clients with the Chiquita brand, promoting products and selecting the best producers and varieties to support brand growth. There will be a high level of service to hook clients on the Chiquita brand," Espinoza said.
Beyond Asia, IFC has its eye on eventually reaching consumers in Chile and Argentina. It also has plans for additional suppliers in Peru, Brazil, Mexico and the United States to source stonefruit, pome fruit and citrus fruit.
Above all, IFC is focused on maintaining the expectations that come with the Chiquita name, explained vice president of sales Keith Leichty.
"The fruit will still be from high quality, certified growers, GAP approved growers, which we want also. Our goal is to develop our business and the only way to do that it to put a premium product into the buyers' hands and in their warehouses. We will have as strict, if not stricter, quality control standards for our growers," Leichty said.
"Chiquita has faith in us for what we’ve been doing with them for years. For consumers, it’s probably one of the most recognized names for produce items, particularly bananas. We’d like to take that recognition up a notch."
Bryant explained that on Chiquita's end, the choice to move forward with IFC as a licensee came naturally, especially given the company's confidence in the team.
"David was one of the main players. He was with Chiquita for 17 years. He had a good repertoire and relationship with everyone here from the CFO down. Everybody knew him, that’s he’s a Chiquita guy and that he’ll take care of the business and the brand, which is the most important thing," Bryant said.
"They weren’t just leasing it out to somebody walking down the street. There is true Chiquita running through his blood."