your-news image
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 ago.

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 States.

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 country.

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- safety effort.

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.