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New deal gives Progressive more volume and flexibility

The addition of Mission Produce Inc.’s asparagus business as well as its top salesman has given Los Angeles-based Progressive Produce Corp. more flexibility, more volume and more customers for its own asparagus business.

The deal, which was announced last fall and included Mission’s Mexican asparagus business, significantly increased Progressive’s presence in fresh asparagus.

General Manager Don Hessel told The Produce News in mid-July that Cruz Carrera, formerly with Mission and now the firm’s new asparagus sales manager, has brought many new customers to the company, especially on the East Coast.

“We were a year-round supplier [of asparagus] to begin with, but this move strengthens us in several areas and helps us tremendously on the sales end,” Hessel said.

Speaking specifically of its Peruvian deal for this year, Hessel said it is very similar to last year. “We have expanded our one-pound pack and also offer 1.75- and 2.25-pound packs. And we also offer custom packing.”

Eight years ago, Progressive Produce entered into a partnership with Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc. in Greencastle, PA, to cooperatively source and market asparagus, including Peruvian asparagus. Hessel said that joint venture is still intact and indicated it is only enhanced by the addition of Carrera and the extra asparagus volume.

In partnership with Keystone, Progressive imports asparagus from Peru and also has production in Mexico, California and Washington. The collaboration also includes the marketing of sweet onions.

For this season, Hessel said the Peruvian asparagus volume looks to be the same as last year for the industry as a whole.

“For the last couple of years, some growers have cycled out of asparagus but others have established new fields,” he said. “I believe the volume will follow the typical pattern [this year]. Generally, in late August it starts to increase with the peak hitting from middle of September to the end of October.”

While the addition of Carrera has given the firm more East Coast business, Hessel said that Progressive does a lot of business with retailers in the Southwest, near its California headquarters.

He anticipates good promotional support once September arrives.