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Beyond Borders - Part 4

Gateway to the Next Level

India is second only to China in population and in fruit and vegetable production. With booming economy, increasing affluence, and an ever-growing population, India is seen by the global business community as an important economic hub of the future. Riding on this explosive potential, DMPL purchased its first factory in India and organized Del Monte Foods India Pvt. Ltd.

In the village of Batavarapalli, near the city of Bangalore, the factory produces tropical fruit purees like mango, guava and papaya for export to the Middle East, Europe, Africa and other parts of Asia. In a place where majority of the population is engaged in agriculture, the Del Monte factory is the biggest employer and the only food processing facility around. Del Monte products imported from the Philippines and China are also sold in the Indian Subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka).

Notwithstanding a few years' losses (only to make a turn-around last year), DMPL took a bold step to grow its family in India. DMPL joined hands with Bharti Enterprises, one of India's leading business groups, and EL Rothschild Limited, to position the company to develop the Del Monte brand in India's rapidly growing market with an expanded platform for exports. It aims to further grow Field Fresh Foods Pvt. Ltd. Field Fresh is a key fresh fruit and vegetable exporter to Europe and the Middle East and has production and sourcing facilities all over India. This strategic partnership is expected to bridge the gap between India's high fresh produce volume and FieldFresh's processing capability.

FieldFresh's boasts of topnotch research and development facilities (300-acre model farm in Punjab, crop and varietal trials, 42-acre protected cultivation farms with poly-glass greenhouses), its investments for “a strong future” and for the “next level”.

Quality Assurance Officer Pratheesh Nair, 26, wants teammates to feel that each one of them is essential to the company's success. His team members divide responsibilities, closely monitor performance and share ideas. Together, they've managed to increase productivity every year without any additional equipment. Fruit availability greatly determines productivity, so they plan well for every phase of the process, without sacrificing product quality and worker safety.

“Continuing professional growth is vital to doing an excellent job,” says Pratheesh, adding that no one is ever too old to learn new things. He's back in school for an advanced food processing course that will broaden his perspectives on the plant's operation.

Giving credit to Del Monte's “years of international goodwill” and “systematic organization,” the young executive says: “Let's be proud of our products. Make sure your family is our first customer.”

Cosmopolitan Dubai offers MudasirTak, 29, FieldFresh Sales and Market Development Manager, the biggest challenge of his career. After working in the United Kingdom and moving back to India two years ago as part of Field Fresh' start-up team, he now runs the company's on-shore base that further distributes fresh fruits through partners across the Middle East. Mudasir, or “Muddy” is a key player with concurrent responsibilities for markets in China, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

What he likes most about start-up jobs is that it “challenges your patience, determination and your abilities. You get up every morning and there's something new. Besides, the joy of seeing an organization build itself in front of you is something that can't be explained.”

This young exec believes “innovation, willingness to accept change and subsequent improvement are keys to success.” He says he's not in a position to advise anybody but will share some food for thought: “Have our feet placed firmly on the ground but set high standards for our own selves. In our own small way, we have the power to contribute to the over-all growth of our company.”

In India, FieldFresh has also significantly pushed the threshold of its agriculture sector. Muddy tells us about one of the company's community program: “We're doing pioneering work in educating and empowering farming communities and investing in education of children.”

Muddy gets to see exciting places and meet many people via his Field Fresh job. A recent “adventure” was the National Sales Conference in Cagayan de Oro where he met colleagues from other DMPL subsidiaries. Back in the hustle and bustle of Dubai, Muddy and his wife, a business partner of Unilever Arabia, plan to have children very soon. Pratheesh, on the other hand, enjoys weekends with friends. This is a bonus for someone who's young and single. He lives near the factory and far from his parents but finds time to visit them, with whom he shares his income. Mudasir joins Product Mgr. Marvin Montes, lrfan Aziz (Fieldfresh Int'l. Food Stuff, Fruits Div. Gen. Mgr.), Product Mgr. Tina Estacio, Category Mgr. Angie Castillo and Product Mgr. Agnes Merino

The Family Tree

The family business was born in the Philippines. Over 80 years ago, pineapple seeds were first grown in the plateaus of Bukidnon by researchers of the California Packing Corporation. They brought in these seeds after pests devastated their pineapple farms in Hawaii.

The family now runs the world's largest pineapple plantation, a sprawling 20,000 hectare farm that can produce about 750,000 tons of fruit a year. The right combination of good growing conditions, best agricultural practices and efficient technologies helps the family grow some of the world's sweetest pineapples (a pineapple cycle takes 36 months).

Efficient planning ensures sufficient fruits are delivered to the cannery in Cagayan de Oro. Here in the world's largest integrated pineapple processing facility, a million or more fruits are processed on a single day. Fruits are washed, sorted and graded before being processed. No fruit parts are wasted. Whole fruit meat is processed into slices, tidbits, chunks, crush or used for tropical fruit mixes. Other fruit parts (core, skin, eradicated meat) provide raw material for beverage products.

The cannery makes its own cans (a million or more cans a day in 14 different sizes). From the cannery's own deep-dredged seaport, finished products are shipped to destinations in the country and around the world.

Around the World Via S&W

When the family acquired the premium S&W brand in 2007, a door of new global possibilities opened up.

While its brand rights focus on markets outside of the Americas (retained by Del Monte Foods) and Australia and New Zealand (under a venture capital group), the family sees S&W as its vehicle to capture a huge chunk of the global market for processed and fresh produce. Having another globally recognized brand to carry our own fruit and vegetable products has the potential to multiply the strength of our business.

Like the Del Monte brand, the S&W brand originated in the United States in 1896.

Even as a team is yet to be organized to lead this new segment of our business, key plans have taken strategic positions on the drawing board. Growing and sourcing more fruit in the Philippines, China, India and beyond; increasing manufacturing capabilities; and streamlining distribution networks are likely the key routes to circling the globe via S&W and achieving our 2×5 vision (doubling the business in five years, at most).

With S&W as one more powerful business-building tool, or in the words of our CEO and Managing Director Joselito D. Campos “a third leg,” Del Monte Pacific is more than ready to transform itself into a truly global branded consumer products company. Truly, we have grown beyond borders.

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