Ruiz stays ahead of the traceability pack with lime sticker
by Tim Linden | April 18, 2010
Ruiz Sales, an Edinburg, TX, distributor of tropical fruits, has long tried to be
ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting new technology. This year, it
has continued that tradition with the addition of traceable GTIN on most of its
limes, at both the case level and the item level.
"We have been putting stickers on our limes for 10 years, longer than
anybody else. Now we have added traceability at the item level, and some
companies haven't even started putting stickers on yet," said Richard Ruiz,
president and chief executive officer of the firm that he founded two decades
Mr. Ruiz called this the company's claim to fame. "Our customers expect
more, and we give them more. And consequently, they pay more."
He added that Ruiz Sales only brings top export-quality limes into the United
When The Produce News spoke with Mr. Ruiz in early April, the firm was
selling about four to five loads per week of limes with the traceable GTIN
code on them, but he said that this would soon increase to a dozen or more
loads per week. He said that initial tests with customers such as Publix and
H.E.B. have proved successful, so the company will soon expand its
production of stickered limes with the GTIN to other customers around the
Mr. Ruiz added that Ruiz Sales has partnered with a Canadian firm on the
Accu-Label stickering machine, which is located in the produce firm's
Edinburg warehouse. The limes come into the United States from Mexico and
are repacked in Texas, which is where the label is applied.
"We say that it applies a sticker on 98 percent of the individual limes, but
really it is 100 percent," said Mr. Ruiz.
Besides the GTIN, the sticker contains the name of the product, its country of
origin, a PLU code, a data bar for scanning purposes, the company's web site
(www.ruizsales.com) and the firm's logo, which depicts a woman with a
basket of mangos and limes on her head. All told, that is quite a bit of
information for a sticker the size of a quarter, but Mr. Ruiz said that it is well
worth the effort.
"People see our sticker and buy the fruit," he said. "Just the other day, and old
friend of mine, who is a postal worker here in Edinburg, told me that he went
into an H.E.B. store to buy some lemons but he saw my limes with the sticker
on them, so he bought them. That tells you that the sticker is important."
Mr. Ruiz said that buyers from Florida to Texas have told him the same thing.
"They are impressed with our sticker and our traceability program. Right now,
we concentrate our sales in the Southeast, but because of this sticker, we are
getting calls from all over the country."
Mr. Ruiz is a big believer in produce traceability. "Everyone in our industry
should be doing it," he said.
He added that food safety is a very important component of the produce
business today, and the only way to have an effective food-safety program is
if the product can be traced back to its origin. That, he added, gives the
consumer a high level of confidence in the product and the company's food-
Persian limes from Mexico are the top-volume product imported by Ruiz
Sales, but it also specializes in other tropical items such as mangos,
pineapples, papayas and jicamas. "We sell other items as well, but tropicals
are our specialty," said Mr. Ruiz.
Mr. Ruiz grew up in the produce business and first worked for his father at
Robert Ruiz Inc. He branched off and formed his own firm in 1990 with
tropical items as his core products.