Green Tree International Inc. in Visalia, CA, handles an assortment of products, with a strong focus on California-grown fruit, fresh grapes from the San Joaquin Valley being among the most important.
“Out of the San Joaquin Valley, we don’t represent any growers,” said Cary Crum, vice president. “We do mostly brokerage. We work with probably 10 to 12 shippers on a very close level” and also with a second tier of about that same number of shippers as needed. “We try to concentrate on a core group of shippers as much as we can and be supportive of them,” he said.
In terms of customers, Green Tree “focuses on smaller and medium sized companies outside the major markets in the United States,” Mr. Crum said. “We work hard to try to provide service to those smaller customers and give them representation here.” That, in turn, is a benefit to the shippers with whom the company works.
Those customers include some small regional retailers. In addition, “we do a fair amount of foodservice.” But “our biggest sector is the small to medium-sized regional wholesaler,” he said.
“We are good for our customers because we give them buying power and we give them on-the-ground inspection services and advanced pricing,” Mr. Crum said.
“What that does for our shippers” is to enable Green Tree to bring them business they may not otherwise get because “they don’t have the sales staff in place to talk to all the smaller customers we deal with,” he explained.
Many of the grape orders Green Tree handles are small. “We do bigger volume, too, but we do a lot of one- to four-pallet orders,” bringing business to the shippers from buyers that their sales people don’t have time to call, he said. “It is a good fit, so that is what we continue to do.”
Green Tree maintains “our own staff inspectors not only in the coolers but [also] in the field on occasions,” he said.
“We also do consolidation.” If, for example, a customer wants both grapes and tree fruit, “we will pick up the grapes and put [them] in the cooler where the tree fruit is to make it easier” for the customer’s truck to pick up the order,” he said. “The trucks don’t want to make multiple pickups.”
In addition to grapes and stone fruit, “we consolidate … melons and citrus and figs,” he said.
Not being a grape shipper in the San Joaquin Valley, “we do not have an inventory that we are responsible to move,” he said. “That frees us up to match up our customer specifications with individual shippers where it makes sense. We may be buying a medium size grape for one customer and an extra large premium for another customer, and we can use either the same shipper or different shippers. But we try to put as many orders in with our shippers as possible for different grades, because we recognize the fact that they have multiple grades to sell. So we try to be a resource for them and try to find customers for each of their grades, as well as at a pricing level that they want.”
In March, Green Tree opened a wholesale produce division in Dallas. “We also source” for the Dallas wholesale operation, “so that gives us a little more diversity with our shippers as well,” he said.
Also, “we have our sister company, the Fruit Exchange,” that markets grapes year-round in the “Green Giant” label, he said. The Fruit Exchange has the same ownership as Green Tree International, but “it acts more as a shipper and is focusing more on retail business.”
Presently, the Fruit Exchange has one sales employee on staff, Jack Rast, son of Green Tree’s President John Rast. Supplementing that, “we are using some of our existing sales staff at Green Tree” to assist with sales for the Fruit Exchange, Mr. Crum said. As the volume of the Fruit Exchange grows, it will eventually “have its own sales staff.”