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Safco Looks To Expand
In ‘New Industry Order’

A well-known industry executive in the international trade arena has found a new home:

Dirk Winkelmann has assumed the position of General Manager of Safco of America, located in Visalia, California.

Safco is the US distribution company for Rio Blanco, the largest grape grower/packer/shipper in Chile, with production in Mexico as well. The focus of the company is the distribution of its own grape production from both Chile and Mexico. The company is also diversified in other products, including cherries, blueberries, avocados and citrus (Clementines, navels, and lemons).

While the majority of what Safco distributes is from Rio Blanco, Safco also represents independent growers who export directly to Safco of America, from Chile, Mexico and Peru.

The plan is to expand the company’s sourcing from more areas of the world, venturing into representation of growers from California and Brazil this season as well as looking to Argentina. The goal is to expand sourcing in both the “core” product lines as well as expand into new product lines.

Dirk, along with his management team, is tasked with diversifying the operations of the distribution company with the objective to provide year-round support to customers.

Dirk’s most recent positions within the industry include Senior Vice President of Global Business Development at Sun World and Vice President of Sales and Procurement at Vanguard International, a leading exporter.

Note that Safco is dipping its toe into selling California product. For years, marketers of California grapes have tried to develop import deals to provide year-round service to customers.

Also large exporters, going back at least to Frupac before Chiquita bought the company, have looked to open US sales offices to cut out the importer.

Yet, with the growth of global procurement operations, one wonders if the trend might not reverse.

After all, a global procurement operation would see a US office for a Chilean company as an added and unnecessary expense. In fact, it is not clear whether the whole notion that each company should strive to supply everything 52 weeks a year is the way things are going to go.

When we ran an interview entitled, Ron McCormick Of Wal-Mart Elaborates On Its Procurement Reorganization, we discussed with Ron the implications that Wal-Mart’s Global Procurement initiative held for the company’s purchasing patterns:

Ron was philosophical about Global Procurement. He acknowledged that for corporate reasons, as we elaborated on in our original piece, this was a vitally important initiative to Wal-Mart.

Yet he felt very optimistic about companies, such as Pandol Bros. Co., whose investments and contacts outside the U.S. add real value. Many Wal-Mart vendors that had never been importers became importers over the last decade as they attempted to provide 52-week sourcing on their items. The importance of that competency to Wal-Mart is fading as its Global Procurement operation picks up steam. Still, Ron spoke as one who has seen the “latest best thing” come and go a few times in his career, and he seemed to expect that, one way or another, Wal-Mart would wind up buying quite a bit of imported produce from U.S. firms for a long time to come.

We took this to mean two things:

First, that simply picking up marketing deals wasn’t going to create much value in the eyes of Wal-Mart’s procurement team. If, however, a company had real ownership and assets in various countries, it could be viewed as a “domestic” supplier regardless of where the company is headquartered.

Second, whatever the long-term plan, it was going to have holes in it for a long time, and thus there would be plenty of opportunity for marketers to sell quite a bit of produce even if they didn’t meet the definition of a “perfectly situated” vendor.

Seems like things are in flux and with its new hire, Rio Blanco and Safco will be looking for its place in the “New Industry Order.”

Best of luck to Dirk in his new position.

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