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Badillo joins Delta Fresh as general manager

Javier (J.J.) Badillo, who was previously director of diversified products for Santa Paula, CA-based Calavo Growers Inc. and ran that company’s Nogales operations, has joined Delta Fresh Sales LLC in Nogales as general manager.

Prior to his involvement with Calavo, Badillo had been a partner in Maui Fresh International. He came into the Calavo organization with the acquisition by Calavo of Maui Fresh International in 2003.

In explaining why he took a position with Delta Fresh, Badillo told The Produce News, “I had gotten a call from Delta Fresh asking if I would be interested in coming in and seeing if I could help out with the organization. When I came in and sat down and saw what was going on [at Delta Fresh], I was quite excited at what I saw and was able to recognize the potential that was ahead of us as well as seeing what had already been achieved. I was really excited” about the opportunity to be a part of it and help Delta Fresh to continue to grow.

Delta Fresh has been “growing at a tremendous pace, and they are poised to continue forward at a very strong pace,” he said.

The company was founded by Niko Panousopoulos who “originally came from Mexico to escape a war-torn Greece in 1920,” Badillo said. Niko’s dedication to hard work had become a way of life at Delta Produce,” and his way of doing business “continues today.”

The company is now “80 years strong and third generation,” Badillo said. Constantino Panousopoulos is the second generation. The current managing partner, Panousopoulos, is third generation. “The industry knows him as Thanasi.”

“The Panousopoulos family continues developing our education as students of the industry with a passion to service many more generations to come,” he said.

Delta Fresh is “a distributor and marketer of fresh produce,” he continued. “We have a grower base throughout the country of Mexico with agricultural partners that are dedicated to quality food safety and social responsibility.”

Delta Fresh distributes its products through facilities in Otay Mesa, CA, and in Pharr, TX, as well as Nogales. “It gives us the ability to service North American markets at a very strong pace,” Badillo said. “We service a well-balanced customer base from the local farm stand to the most sophisticated retail and foodservice operations in the produce industry. We do this with 2,200 acres of indoor and open field production. There are two state-of-the-art packing facilities with the capacity and capabilities of packing a customer’s needs.”

The three “strategically located forward distribution centers are aimed at creating beneficial advantages for customers, with food-safety certifications and social responsibilities front and center,” he said.

“The three product lines that we are focusing on currently are cucumbers, bell peppers and tomatoes,” Badillo said. In the cucumber category are American slicer cukes, “which consist of the traditional sizes of super selects, selects, large, small and plains,” as well as European cucumbers.

The cucumber program is heavy to the super selects and selects, “which gives us a very strong position” in 24-count cartons for foodservice and 36-count cartons for retail, “and we do a fabulous job there,” he said.

“Our bell pepper program is a small program that is just kicking up, starting with the green bell peppers,” Badillo said. The green bell pepper program runs from November to January, with production in Hermosillo, Sonora, and Culiacán, Sinaloa, and it is definitely a growing program for us.”

The tomato category consists of round tomatoes in two layers and three layers as well as one-layer beefsteak tomatoes, “and we are going to kick off a 25-pound pink tomato program,” he said. In addition, “we have tomatoes-on-the-vine in two-threes and three-fours, and we have a grape tomato program, which has been increasing considerably for us. In the grape tomato program, we are packing in 20-pound and 10-pound bulk packs” as well as one-pint clamshells, 12 per master container.

The tomatoes are grown in Hermosillo and Culiacán as well as in Baja California.

“The labels that we are handling are ‘Delta Fresh,’ ‘Grecos,’ and ‘Juca,’” he said.

The growth of Delta Fresh over the last five years “has been impressive, with the next five years looking to be even more exciting,” Badillo said. “Product diversity and year-round production are the next step in our future. We have been working with customer and grower partners in order to expand our seasonalities.”

Cucumbers are one example of a product with which Delta Fresh “has reached year-round production capabilities,” he said. “Year-round Roma, grape and round tomato production is just around the corner as well.”

For the coming year, “our Roma tomato program is a good strong steady program,” he said. “It looks like we have another grower coming on board, and our Roma program should increase significantly this year. That program will kick off approximately Nov. 30 and go strong all the way through” to the first of August.

“Our grape tomato program was a little more than a trial program last year,” Badillo continued. “This year we have increased the acreage, and we should have a solid, steady supply of grape tomatoes.” They started Nov. 15 “and look to continue to June 1.”

On the sales team at Delta Fresh, “we have Thanasi and Otilio Garavito,” Badillo said. They have been “expanding the sales over the years and have done an incredible job of putting together different programs. I really feel privileged to join their group and help expand their sales programs. They are young guys coming up that are doing a fabulous job. It is a pleasure working with them.”