Immediate customer response, in-depth knowledge of the fresh produce industry, and an ability to think outside the box. These are the qualities that characterize New Star Sales & Marketing Co. in Champaign, IL, according to company President John Aune and his business partner Tom Spivey, a director in the company. The two seasoned professionals said that they seek to deliver the highest level of personal service to their client base.
Although the company celebrated its two-month anniversary Aug. 13, Mr. Aune said that a wealth of professional experience is a hallmark at New Star.
“I’ve been in the industry my whole life,” he told The Produce News Aug. 5.
Mr. Aune brings 32 years of experience to the table from his association with Supervalu, 20 of which were at the executive level. He was involved with the startup of W. Newell & Co. for Supervalu. Eventually, he took an early retirement and went to work at C.H. Robinson.
Mr. Spivey is currently president of Five Star Sales, a food brokerage business in Champaign, but was previously associated with Acosta Sales & Marketing. Like Mr. Aune, Mr. Spivey brings significant industry experience to the new venture.
“I had a yearning to have my own company,” Mr. Aune said of New Star’s formation.
As a team, Messrs. Aune and Spivey supply competitively priced commodities to retailers, wholesalers and foodservice operators. As for the ways in which New Star is distinguishing itself from the competition, Mr. Aune said, “[Customers], in many cases, are locked into contracts or a seasonal buy. But they’re looking for a sales opportunity.”
Through his numerous industry contracts, Mr. Aune is able to source quality produce through short or spot buys, even in small quantities, and acquire items quickly at favorable prices. This fact is important, Mr. Aune added, because, “A customer may have an immediate need, but can’t buy in quantity.”
Time is the linchpin. “I’ve got to be nimble enough to respond to immediate needs, but also plan out for the new season,” said Mr. Aune, who is already working on apple deals to move product as the new crop becomes available.
Technology is playing a pivotal role in today’s business dynamics, and New Star is taking advantage of cutting-edge opportunities. “I can pass along digital images of how a product looked on a particular morning,” Mr. Aune said by way of illustration.
New Star is staking its reputation on quality. “We want to deal with trusted brands and labels,” Mr. Aune said. “We are not shopping for distressed product or overpurchased volume. My first choice would be to deal with a company like Dole.”
Mr. Aune said that the number of specific product lines represented by New Star continues to grow. The company provides in-store account management support for these lines.
Having an understanding of ever-changing market conditions is another key to successful operation. “Today, I have access to a couple of organizations that have people on the ground,” Mr. Aune said. These individuals are constantly monitoring pricing fluctuations.
In addition to these business relationships, Mr. Aune subscribes to a number of global pricing sites to stay on top of his game. “There is chatter going back and forth about who’s selling what, and who’s buying,” he said. “It’s amazing how quick I can get responses. When I’m quoting somebody, I want to be sure I’m competitive.”
Product movement goes hand in hand with product procurement. “I have aligned myself with some outstanding third-party logistics providers,” he said. “I can quote f.o.b. and delivered price.”
New Star can also assist smaller companies develop weekly ad plans to facilitate long-term growth.
Mr. Aune’s business office is located at Five Star’s facilities in Champaign. “I can utilize people at Five Star now and will expand as [New Star] grows,” he noted.
The company’s customer base is primarily in the Midwest. “I also have good connections with customers in the mid-Atlantic,” Mr. Aune added, saying that customer location is not a deterrent to conducting business.