ATLANTA — Fresh produce has always packed a punch, but never more so than now.
State Street Produce, based in San Antonio, TX, announced during the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit convention that it had partnered with world champion boxer, best-selling recording artist and Filipino Congressman Manny Pacquiao to launch a new label, “Pacquiao Produce,” which began shipping to retail and foodservice in mid-October.
Beginning immediately, all State Street No. 1 produce items will be packed under the “Pacquiao” label. Previously, the company marketed its No. 1 items under the “Beijing” label.
Mr. Pacquiao, who has multi-million-dollar endorsement deals with Nike and Hewlett-Packard, wanted more than money when State Street Chief Executive Officer Ted Ludeman initially approached him about endorsing the company’s products.
Mr. Pacquiao, who grew up impoverished and on the streets of his hometown of General Santos City, Philippines, wanted a partnership that would allow him to export fresh produce to help feed his friends and neighbors back home.
“Obviously, we couldn’t afford $10 million — that’s a lot of produce,” Mr. Ludeman told The Produce News Oct. 14 during the PMA Fresh Summit. “So I had to come up with a different sales pitch. Manny Pacquiao goes back to his hometown in the Philippines after every single fight and feeds and gives money to every single person in the town. He sits out there for two days straight and just hands out money to people over and over and over again until every single person in his town is fed and has money. I realized that this is bigger than us. We can have a person who is becoming reputable as an incredible humanitarian and who is an incredible fighter and an incredible person. Manny Pacquiao is green. What’s greener than broccoli? Broccoli’s as green as it gets. So I sat down and said, ‘Manny, we grow broccoli, we want you to endorse our broccoli.’ And he said, ‘You know what my favorite vegetable is? Broccoli.’ And I said, ‘OK, we’re on to something.’ From there we hit it off.”
Mr. Pacquiao liked the idea of promoting a healthy product. But he also asked that State Street agree to establish a foundation that would help children in need around the world. Mr. Ludeman readily agreed and the deal was done.
Mr. Ludeman said, “What we paid him he makes in a week. We have a bigger picture. We’re going to have four divisions for Manny Pacquiao. We’re going to have foodservice, retail, export and we’re going to have one other thing we can’t tell you yet because it’s top secret.”
Added Willie Rodriguez, director of Mexican operations for State Street, “Our slogan is, ‘Feeding Our Future Champions.’ We’re actually able to help children fight obesity and see that there is a figure out there who is able to promote a healthy lifestyle and is a reputable human being. He’s such a humble man.”
In return, State Street, which has primarily served the foodservice sector since its founding 14 years ago, positions itself for a strong surge in the retail market.
The move is a coup for State Street in more ways than one. It leverages Mr. Pacquiao’s worldwide appeal as a performer (his last album reportedly sold more than 2 million copies worldwide) and politician (elected to the Philippine House of Representatives in 2010) as well as an athlete.
State Street began as a produce brokerage in Santa Barbara, CA, in 1997. Two years later, the company opened an office in San Diego and began working the Mexican vegetable trade, specializing in Asian products and especially broccoli and premium broccoli crowns.
In 2007, State Street moved its headquarters to San Antonio and expanded its business to focus on importing vegetables from Mexico through south Texas and its distribution facility in Donna, TX.
The company now farms 2,000 acres of broccoli, Romaine, English cucumbers, cauliflower, green onions, Bell peppers, carrots and specialty items in Mexico, and it has seen its business grow more than 300 percent in the last two years.