How a Small Fruit Packing Company Became a Global Leader
From their humble beginnings in a small packinghouse in Southern, California to becoming a global produce powerhouse, West Pak Avocado Co-Founders Galen Newhouse and Randy Shoup have worked hard to cultivate a tasty niche in the avocado vertical.
It all started in 1982 as a small growing, packing, and shipping operation that sold fruit to local customers. Over the course of three and a half decades, operations expanded into five distribution facilities totaling nearly a third of a million square-feet across the United States and Mexico. Today, West Pak avocados are sourced from over 1000 growers owning over 65,000 acres across California, Mexico, Chile, and Peru. Local distribution grew into 350+ customers throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, and the Middle East.
Over the years, as West Pak added domestic and international growers to their supply chain, they achieved the right balance of seasonal cultivation. Instead of one or two types of avocados sourced locally and available for sale for a few months out of the year, the offerings of several varieties and growing regions expanded the potential for year-round distribution to avo-hungry markets across the globe.
The catalyst to much of West Pak’s success, not to mention the growth of the avocado market globally, involved recognizing the potential of Mexico’s resources in the early ‘90s. The decade was a time when importing produce from Mexico into the U.S. was not permitted. While sourcing avocados to facilitate better distribution to Asian markets, West Pak founders realized the potential of Mexican-grown avocados and ended up facilitating the move over the border into North America.
“We first looked to Mexico in the late ‘80s and saw that the market was ready to explode,” revealed Randy. “Although it was a slow and painstaking process, over the next several years we helped facilitate importing Mexican avocados into the U.S. The progression started by allowing a small number of avocados to be shipped into 13 northern states in the U.S. a few months out of the year. Once the process proved to be successful and the quality of the fruit and its handling to American standards, the restrictions were eased and then eventually lifted. Going into Mexico and spearheading this process proved to be one of the best decisions that we have ever made.”
Galen and Randy have always worked closely with their various growers to ensure that they are producing the best possible fruit and are meeting if not exceeding strict U.S. standards. At their various packing facilities, West Pak takes extreme care in the sorting, bagging, and shipping process to ensure that only the freshest fruit is delivered to their customers, and is done so in a timely manner. And, to set themselves apart from their competition, the company offers value-added services such as conditioning, bagging, and delivery. All efforts are to ensure the best possible product for the price to customers around the world.
“We never wanted to be the biggest in the business but what we did want was to be really good at what we did,” said Randy.
The balance of supply to fulfill year-round demand, careful handling of the fruit and a steadfast desire to continually innovate the process are what helped West Pak prosper. However, Galen and Randy see it differently. They view their success as a byproduct of doing business right. Since day one, the duo started by nurturing a close-knit community of family growers and carried their efforts and high level of respect through into all aspect of doing business – to always be fair and good on their word.
“Integrity has always been our cornerstone to doing business. It’s essential that every segment of our business from our family at West Pak to the consumer is treated with our type of respect and level of service,” stated Galen.
When asked about what led to the success of West Pak, Galen added, “It comes down to thinking ahead of the competition, getting out there, being successful, bringing technology into the marketplace, and taking care of our growers, customers, and employees all equally.”
“We’ve been blessed to have good performance in business, but the true blessing is our people; those who contribute and take ownership in what they do as if it was their own,” added Randy.
Today, West Pak is turning a new leaf and cultivating an expanded era of forward-thinking. It started with the appointment of Mario Pacheco as CEO and with Galen and Randy stepping aside from their original roles, taking on new tasks while transitioning much of the day-to-day operation of the company to the next generation of leaders.
“This transition has been in the works for years and will take several more to implement fully. We prepared financially, installed a Board of Directors with outside directors, and then we set out to find the best possible person for the job. Mario was the clear choice, not just because of his background, track record, and 21-years of experience in the produce industry, but because he met a lot of our same values. It was Mario’s ethics and respect for culture and family that sold us. We are extremely pleased with our selection of Mario Pacheco as our CEO and look forward to his stamp throughout the organization,” explained Galen.
“I think it’s important to say that for Galen and I, our company is everything to us. It took the majority of our lives to construct and to grow, and it’s our legacy,” Randy added. “And we don’t want that to end with us stepping down in the years to come. We want West Pak to prosper and grow, and it’s up to the wonderful team that we have in place to propel the company into the future.”
“As an organization, we are well positioned,” mentioned Galen, continuing, “and we have tremendous growth still to come. With the health benefits and increasing popularity, avocados are the best produce industry to be in at the moment. The great thing is that people want to eat healthier as a society. Parents are influencing their kids, foodies and bloggers are elevating awareness from the chef side, and at home, avocados are easy to create different meals for yourself and your family. The great thing is that they are incredibly healthy for you, which has long-term benefits for us all.”
As for the dynamic duo who started it all? Well, these days they both sit on the Board of Directors for the company and have their hand in many of the projects and dealings to help take West Pak into the future. In addition to ongoing coaching and training for the team, Randy and Galen are spearheading capital expenditure plans, California and Mexico grove development and management projects, human capital improvements, and continuing innovations.
“With all of the potential that West Pak and the produce industry have, we’re busier now than we ever have been before,” said Galen in closing.” And that potential, to me, is exciting!”