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SGS in a growth mode

by Rand Green | March 02, 2010
TRAVER, CA -- It has been just two years since Scattaglia Growers & Shippers LLC was formed, and during those two years "we've been more successful than I had ever dreamed," said Louis Scattaglia, managing partner. "That is why we are heading down this path of expansion."

The expansion to which he referred is a multi-faceted program consisting of new office construction, enhanced packing capability and the planting of additional fruit orchards and grape vineyards. Eventually, as needed, additional sales and sales support staff will also be added.

The most visible manifestation of the expansion at the company's Traver facility for the 2010 season will be construction of additional office space, which is currently underway and which is targeted for completion mid-April, in time for the beginning of the cherry harvest.

"We are essentially tripling the size of all of the office space that we have, basically in response to the big success that we have enjoyed since we started the company," Mr. Scattaglia said March 2. "We continue to add more product to our line, and as a result we need ... a lot more work space."

The current SGS sales and administrative offices occupy about 3,000 square feet. The new construction will add approximately an additional 6,000 square feet to the facility, which adjoins the packinghouse.

In addition to offices, the complex will house a full kitchen, a new formal conference room, and two other "satellite conference rooms which we are calling working conference rooms," Mr. Scattaglia said. "We need the room to be able to present new packaging ideas to our customers." The working conference rooms will provide a place "where new packaging ideas can be kicked around, with actual materials brought in" to be "discussed with our customers in a more informal atmosphere where we can cut things up and draw on them," generate new ideas, and experiment with different products.

It takes "a lot of room for that kind of thing," he said. "We need a lot more work space to accomplish all that."

The company's volume is increasing, and "we are planting aggressively again," Mr. Scattaglia said. New stone fruit acreage is going in both in the San Joaquin Valley and in the high-desert, late-season growing area in Southern California, just north of the San Gabriel Mountains.

"We are also expanding our grape operation here in the San Joaquin Valley" as well as increasing cherry production, he said.

The additional acreage will include plantings of some "new varieties that we are very happy with and [that] show promise. We are going to develop those new varieties to the fullest extent over the next five-year period," he said.

"We have been very pleasantly surprised by the response we have gotten from the retail trade in supporting us," Mr. Scattaglia said. That response, he believes, is a result of "all of the hard work that our sales and administrative staff has put in since we started and also, more importantly, to the growers buying into the philosophy of harvesting the product that we grow properly." That assures that the retailers' customers will "have a great eating experience each time they buy our product."

To accommodate the increased volume coming into the packing facility from the additional acreage that has been and will continue to be planted, SGS is expanding its packing capability in its Traver facility. For the current season, that expansion consists of putting in additional packing equipment in the existing facility, Mr. Scattaglia said. "We are thinking in the future that there is going to be additional square footage."

SGS is upbeat about the future of the industry, according to Mr. Scattaglia. "We think the industry is fantastic. It went through some tough times, and it continues to do so. But at SGS we are super optimistic that it has turned the corner, and we are positioning ourselves to be leaders in the industry the next five to 10 years. We are backing that up by reinvesting ... both in infrastructure and on the growing end," he said.