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Tavilla now Vision as firm increases direct grower deals in Mexico

Tavilla Sales Co. of Los Angeles, which is headquartered in Los Angeles with branch offices in Nogales and Phoenix, AZ, and which for about the past six years has had half ownership in New Jersey-based Vision Import Group, has changed its name to Vision Produce Co. The transition took place the beginning of September this year, according to John Caldwell, general manager of the company’s Arizona operations.

“For Vision and Tavilla, we have transitioned into direct grower deals” and increasingly become sales agents for growers, Mr. Caldwell said. “That lends itself to [having] a presence in Nogales to be able to service customers and growers correctly.”

Juan Carlos Chavez, previously with Sandia Distributors Inc. in Nogales, opened the Nogales office for Tavilla in December 2011. Bobby Peraza, who was also previously with Sandia, “joined us two or three months ago” and is now on sales with Mr. Chavez in the Nogales office, said Mr. Caldwell, who is based in the Phoenix office but manages both Arizona offices.

In the Phoenix office, “I handle all of the products that Vision as a company handles,” such as limes, mangos and chilis, he said. “In addition, I do potatoes and other citrus — lemons, oranges, what have you. We service retail chains and foodservice companies in the Phoenix market” and also have a cross-dock and delivery service “for other companies looking for help with their distribution here in Phoenix.”

In Nogales, the company operates a year-round office because in additional to doing “the traditional vegetable items from October through June,” the company handles Mexican limes and mangos year-round, with heavy mango volume through the summer, he said. “We will be introducing Honeydews in the spring.”

Vision’s Nogales operation now has grower deals in place in Mexico for bell peppers, cucumbers, hot chilis, tomatillos and yellow squash as well as for Honeydew melons and was also working on putting together a Roma deal, he said.

One reason that the company model has moved to developing more grower-direct deals is to have “control of our own product,” Mr. Caldwell said. But another important reason is food safety. “We as a company felt that we need to be involved from the seed all the way to the customer as far as food safety is concerned. All our growers are food safety certified all the way through, and we are certified in Nogales, in Phoenix and in L.A. All our distribution is certified” as well as all packing facilities.

“Food safety is a real prevalent issue right now,” he added.

One reason for the name change, he said, is the name Tavilla “didn’t really define what we did.” Owner Bill Vogel “has thought about changing the name” for many years.

Since Vision Import Group and Tavilla were using many of the same growers for such products as limes, lemons and pineapple, as both companies grew “we wanted to bring synergies.” Also, he said, “we wanted … our growers to see our reach of where we can establish business in the United States,” which was clearer and less confusing when all companies and divisions in the group shared a common name.

For Vision’s company base, “we now have the ability to service customers on particular items, mostly limes and chilis and mangos, all across the United States, because we have Vision Produce Partners in [Pharr] Texas, now,” as well as offices in Nogales, Phoenix, Los Angeles and New Jersey. “We have a lot of routes established, so now we are able to service customers nationwide … rather than being regional,” he said.

“As customers see us, we are Vision Produce Co. and we have Vision throughout the country, so it is less confusing. They can see the distribution capabilities a lot easier.”

Vision’s new honeydew deal is out of Caborca in the state of Sonora. In addition to the fall program, it will be a spring deal as well.

Other new items for the company this season will be Italian and yellow squash which will run from mid-December into January. Also, Vision is “looking at probably about a 50 percent increase in acreage from last year” for chilis and bell peppers, he said.