Value in every single line of products
Agrana’s portfolio includes products in these four divisions:
1. Fruit preparations & fillings: Agrana manufactures stabilized fruit bases for dairy, ice cream and bakery industries, among others. This division represents 80 percent of the company’s core business.
2. Frozen: Berries, processed fruits and vegetables are produced in various forms, including: individually quick frozen (IQF), free of additives and preservatives; block quick frozen (BQF), blended or not with additional ingredients depending on client’s needs; and frozen purees, pasteurized or unpasteurized, with or without sugar added. This adds up to 15 percent of the company’s sales, including clients in the food service industry.
3. Fresh fruits: Packed berries are sent directly to retail outlets, with the majority exported to the U.S. according to health standards. Fresh fruit production and packaging amount to less than five percent of the company’s revenue.
4. Dried fruit: This unit develops and produces innovative, competitive and versatile solutions aligned to trends in health foods. Offered products include hot air dried fruit (DAC), dry infused fruit, sweetened dried fruit, (FED), restyled fruit and dehydrated-flavored cubes (CDS).
The company’s efforts are focused toward value generation through sustainable development, fostering relationships with clients, farmers and consumers, and meeting the market’s needs as a premier B2B and B2B2C supplier. In order of importance within Agrana Fruit Mexico, the company works with strawberries, mangos, apples, pineapples, berries and vegetables. Agrana’s crops in Mexico deliver a better product that has become more resistant to pests and needs less help from chemical treatments.
“Not every country has Mexico’s versatility for food production. Mexico offers a wide variety of fruits at very affordable prices,” Baader stressed.
Rewards from constant innovation
Satisfying the market’s needs worldwide is not the only thing Agrana is about. The development of new food presentations and recipes is also an endless endeavor for the company on a global level.
The Agrana Holding has a central R&D facility in Vienna, uniting an elite corps of 60 Agrana experts to work on new products designed to fulfill end customers’ demands, market tendencies and explore new ingredient combinations.
Agrana Fruit Mexico’s R&D lab displays the same craftsmanship set at the Vienna headquarters. The local facility is able to create 500 new prototype blends per month by modifying ingredient quantities and processes’ times, which results in delivering five new mixes into the market every 30 days. Thinking out of the box is a must at Agrana laboratories; some markets may be more receptive to new developments than others, but that does not keep Agrana from looking into new ways of bringing healthier, tastier products for end consumers.
"In our sector, most innovations actually come from the field and lands than from the industrial aspect," the executive said.
Machinery is upgraded annually at Agrana. Using the most recent models increases efficiency, and upgraded features result in less energy consumption and a reduced impact on the environment. Freezing and packaging are also important processes in Argana's operations. As the company's products demand grows in the domestic market and in the U.S., equipment must be constantly upgraded to meet the ever-growing need.
"We acquire machinery able to reduce the KW we use for every kg of fruit we produce,” Baader explained.
Close relationships with local farmers
Agrana's business model, working methods, resources and business strategies provide for win-win ventures between the company and its main suppliers, the local landowners and their respective farmhands. Products are exported to the U.S., priced according to growing seasons to assure that farmers sell their entire crop.
The company’s involvement with local farmers includes using best practices, a reduced use of chemicals, and creating safe working environments with the best sanitation conditions for the product and farmhands.
“We are able to trace every single strawberry back to the field it was harvested from, who picked it, and what – if any – chemicals were used on it,” the CEO said.
Certification, a key to global business
Agrana Fruit Mexico’s exports and overall operations are certified by different organizations. Field operations, safe practices, hiring ethics, and on-field sanitation all meet the various requirements of global standards, U.S. compliance, and industry-specialized organizations. Aside from its own standards for sustainable operations, Agrana Fruit Mexico has all the proper credentials to guarantee the healthiest products, the safest conditions for every worker and the best practices for new hires. ISO, FSSC, Kosher, CSR, SEDEX and other entities guarantee the company’s operations and practices. In fact, Agrana Fruit Mexico was the first company in Mexico to be certified by Global G.A.P. and by the Rainforest Alliance, starting an evolution of corporate culture in the region.
“Being certified is part of Agrana's DNA; certifications are not difficult to obtain once the company is used to performing with best practices,” Baader said.
Agrana Fruit Mexico mainly exports to the U.S. and Canada, as well as to Central America and Caribbean islands. The division’s southern territorial limit is Colombia. Territories such as Peru and Ecuador are being evaluated as to which of Agrana's companies should supply the brands’ products; options include the corporation’s affiliate in Mexico, Argentina or Brazil, depending on trade conditions and treaties between these countries.
“We have a strategic location that favors strawberry exports from Mexico to the U.S. If we were stateside, it wouldn’t be that profitable,” the executive said.
Fruit for export... and talent as well
Agrana Fruit Mexico invests in its HR department to aid in its evaluation of future hires, career development and training programs for its existing staff. This has become a fruitful exercise for the Mexican affiliate, as it has exported ten talented Mexican professionals that currently hold high management, operational and financial positions for the company’s locations in Brazil, Fidji and in the U.S., among other countries. The company’s talent detection process begins early in a staff member’s career. Selected candidates attend one of two Guadalajara colleges for further management or technical training: either Panamerican University’s IPADE business management school, or the city’s Management Formation and Improvement Center (ICAMI) location.
“Exporting talent from Mexico to other Agrana locations is a result of a structured plan of development and replacement. Mexico has set the example among Agrana affiliates globally," Baader said.
Agrana's social footprint
The company’s growth is an inclusive venture, gathering farmers into a business model that benefits communities. The frame of this model is passed on to its suppliers. Every 2.5 acres of strawberry fields demands the work of 50 persons three days a week. The employees working the fields are hired from the Zamora and Jacona areas, as well as surrounding towns and villages. After a hard workday, they return home to their families, but they never have to leave their community for work. This business model is reliable, confident and the best social oriented option, very different to other options where low cost workers are moved massively from one region to the other during different crop seasons.
Also, 2015 was the year Agrana became the main supplier of fruit-based health food for the Mexican youth benefitted by the National System for Integral Family Development (DIF).
Expectations up to 2020
Agrana Fruit Mexico's set goals answer to a five-year development plan, aligned with Agrana Holding's planned development for the entire corporation for 2020. The Mexican affiliate directed by Baader has already exceeded original growth expectations. Baader is currently developing new business endeavors and setting higher challenges into the five-year plan. The annual growth rate has remained at a steady 10 percent growth, a figure that seems likely to be repeated during 2016.