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Doug Meyer, vice president of sales and marketing for West Pak Avocado Inc. in Temecula, CA, told The Produce News April 9 that he is looking forward to attending the United Fresh Produce Association convention April 21-25 in Las Vegas, NV, because of all of the "wonderful seminars and workshops" that are going to take place.

"I will be there with my sales team for the convention, and we are very much looking forward to attending all of the workshops" and in particular the Global Conference on Food Safety Standards, he said. In addition, "we are very interested to get in and take a look at the Traceability Demo Center and the Fresh Marketplace and Fresh Tech Learning Center. So we are going to be there, and we are going to be a very active participant."

West Pak is also one of the sponsors of the golf tournament, he said.

As a company, West Pak is very supportive of United, Mr. Meyer said. "We are very pleased with [United's] role as a real advocate for the produce community" and what the organization is "able to do in Washington to help with all of the policy making as it relates to the produce industry. We fully support their efforts."

Food safety and traceability are major areas of focus for West Pak, according to Mr. Meyer. "We have endorsed and are on track with the industry-led Produce Traceability Initiative," having just completed the Phase II requirements. "Additionally, we continue to make strides in our food-safety program."

Also in 2009, the company is "undergoing an evaluation of our sustainability program," Mr. Meyer said. "We are going to continue to raise the bar across all of our operations."

With regard to food safety, "all of our facilities are up to the highest standards currently for the avocado segment of our industry, including our facility in Mexico which we own and operate," Mr. Meyer said.

In addition to the other food-safety certifications the company already has, "we are exploring HACCP certification," he said. Even though Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points protocols are "not currently required within our segment, we feel it is an important step in our program."

On the marketing side, West Pak is "seeing growth in the sales of our preconditioned fruit," Mr. Meyer said. "We installed new state-of-the-art [preconditioning] rooms in our Temecula facility last year, which were specifically designed for our avocado program, and they are producing superior results. And we are increasing the geographic area that we are delivering our reconditioned fruit to with great results."

Significantly, "it is really our customers who are telling us that they are pleased with the program," he said.