West Pak Avocado’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mario Pacheco is tapping his extensive experience in the fruit business to take the avocado grower and distributor to the next level. A former executive with Chiquita, Pacheco possesses an impressive track record in the produce space. His background is in business development, operations, and finance but it’s his penchant for creative cost reduction and service improvement that is the proverbial icing on the cake, at least as far as West Pak is concerned.
Now into his third year with the global avocado grower, packer, and distributor, Pacheco is currently managing the day to day operations and is overseeing financial and business development efforts. A massive undertaking as West Pak founders Randy Shoup and Galen Newhouse step back from their original roles and take on new directions for the company.
Always striving for excellence in the avocado space, West Pak was built on strong ethics with a focus on family values. Now with Pacheco at the helm, the avocado company seeks to maintain and strengthen these values within the organization and to expand on the legacy created by the Shoup and Newhouse partnership. No small feat and some pretty big shoes to fill, but it’s clear that Pacheco is up for the challenge. Here’s how West Pak’s CEO is proving his worth:
What is your vision for West Pak?
Mario Pacheco: My vision is to become a global leader in the avocado space and to maintain that standing. We want to be known for our fruit quality and service levels and to be acknowledged for our efforts. The vision is also about building our brand, both our trade brand with customers and growers, as well as our brand as an employer. The thing is that we want to achieve that vision our way; by preserving our values as a family company based on integrity, commitment, hard work, and valuing our people.
What have you brought to the table to assure your vision for the company?
Mario Pacheco: In 2017, we implemented a five-year strategic plan, which encompasses West Pak’s core values and business activities. Dubbed Strategic Avocado, the plan’s purpose is to envision West Pak over the next five years and create a roadmap to get there. The strategy was designed to help our team focus on the most important things and also prioritize the decisions that we make. With Strategic Avocado, West Pak will work to meet the goals outlined, which will require effort and dedication of all employees. As a company, we see Strategic Avocado as a journey, not a destination.
What are your goals for the company?
Mario Pacheco: Sustainable growth and efficiency – for West Pak to grow and expand while maintaining our quality and service standards. We reject the idea that we must choose between bottom-line performance and growth or between efficiency and delivered quality. Instead, we choose to deliver on all counts.
How do you plan to realize these goals?
Mario Pacheco: We find that alignment between our sourcing and sales functions is essential to achieving our objectives. Alignment means having the right fruit for the right customer at the right time and in the right place. It also means that our operations departments are focused on efficiently packing our avocados in the configuration/pack styles desired by our customers and getting the product to the proper distribution centers in a timely manner. Freshness is key!
How has sourcing changed?
Mario Pacheco: With the increasing market appetite for longer-term contracts, we look to more controlled sourcing, which is essentially us growing more of our own fruit.
We also have a vast network of growers that has always been a critical ingredient of West Pak’s success. We see them not just as our suppliers, but as our partners and an extension of our avocado family. We will continue to build and maintain these relationships as we move forward. However, to meet the high demand for avocados, we are diversifying where we are sourcing and strengthening where we are currently growing.
First, we are expanding our presence in Michoacán, Mexico, which is considered the avocado capital of the world. With its fertile land and optimal growing conditions, it really is the prime location to grow our fruit. It’s also where our largest packing facility resides. Second, we are very committed to our California grower base, where we also have a packing facility and distribution center. Last, we source from Chile and Peru when in season and are now evaluating expanding our sourcing into other countries to provide for our growing customer base.
Also, we’ve recently partnered with Fairtrade America, the U.S division of the leading international Fairtrade certification. West Pak has met all of the organization’s rigorous standards and is therefore now sourcing and marketing Fairtrade avocados. For us, as a company, this is an important step – it demonstrates that we are truly dedicated to enabling farmers and workers so they have more control of their lives and can decide how to invest in their own futures.
What are some of West Pak’s strongest assets?
Mario Pacheco: One of West Pak’s key strategic assets is our packinghouse and sourcing team in Mexico. This strategically-placed facility creates a competitive advantage for us.
In addition, we offer value-add activities like bagging, ripening, and delivery – all which are critical in our path to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace. To empower retailers, we’ve also launched our Avo-Opportunites retail program plus a highly effective branded bag program where we optimize the excitement of avocados geographically, seasonally, demographically, and by use.
We’ve also been certified to carry the Heart-Check mark on our U.S. avocado offerings including our bagged avocado program. The American Heart Association Heart-Check Food Certification Program uses this Heart-Check mark to make it easy for consumers to spot heart-healthy foods in the grocery store or when dining out. This designation is important, as it continues our commitment to helping educate others about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet.
How has marketing changed for the avocado space?
Mario Pacheco: Avocados have become the best produce segment to be in at the moment and offer tremendous potential for continued growth. People are eating healthier and are looking for ways to help achieve a balanced diet. Avocados have been recognized as a nutrient-dense food, meaning that they provide substantial amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients with relatively few calories. Between research data showing that they are heart-healthy to increased awareness due to strong marketing campaigns, the popularity of this fruit has gained tremendous momentum and is showing no signs of letting up.