Interview: Antonio Beltrán
Eleven Rivers Growers CEO on Veggies From Mexico
1. Would you mind sharing with us what is this “Veggies From Mexico” (VFM) project about?
Anticipating the demands from markets, a little over 10 years ago, Confederación de Asociaciones Agrícolas del Estado de Sinaloa (CAADES) created Eleven Rivers Growers to promote Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) among members; as well as Social Responsibility in Agriculture. This used to be made by means of an Eleven Rivers Certificate, now the Eleven Rivers Badge.
Veggies From Mexico is the promoting leg of this Badge, as it endorses fresh, high-quality produce grown under the strictest food safety and social responsibility criteria.
In order to obtain the Eleven Rivers Badge, the farming company must be certified by awarded commercial schemes such as Global Gap, Primus GFS, SQF, CEAR, SMETA, among others. As well as receiving weekly audits by an outsourced technical team of professionals. This badge is unique worldwide.
The goal is to position Veggies From Mexico as the label bringing together Premium quality produce grown in Mexico in the medium term, and be supported by this Badge.
We intend to be in the minds of North American consumers whenever they are selecting a fresh vegetable at the grocery store. We want buyers and consumers to see the faces of Mexican farmers; good, professional and responsible men; behind the brand.
2. What is the importance of promoting a collective brand for the farming industry of Sinaloa and Mexico?
It allows us to stand out both domestically and internationally from other farmers. The Veggies From Mexico farmers share their love for the activity, their commitment for the highest quality, high technology management, their surgical handle of food safety and their high appreciation and compliance with social responsibility.
It is important to share things when they are well done. We know this will bring more and better businesses for the Veggies From Mexico members, their companies, their collaborators and, of course, for Sinaloa and Mexico.
3. What is the role that Eleven Rivers Growers will play within Veggies From Mexico?
As we have said before, Eleven Rivers Growers is the auditing organization behind the brand. It monitors the ongoing compliance of commercial certificates in food safety and social responsibility of farming companies.
What it does through its Badge has two levels: Full Compliance and Beyond. Each of these has its own compliance requirements. Learn more about them at www.veggiesfrommexico.com
4. What are the benefits that being a part of the Veggies From Mexico community bring for farmers in Sinaloa?
With commercial certificates and weekly audits required by brand holders, farmers are always in ongoing improvement. With our communication strategies, we want these farmers to be recognized by the market and, therefore; a greater demand for their products and a better price.
Also, we want our state, Sinaloa, to be recognized as one of the most productive areas in the world.
5. What are the first steps that will be taken through this project?
Currently, there are 14 companies who hold the Eleven Rivers Growers Badge. We are aware that there are dozens of companies in Sinaloa which meet the requirements to be a part of Veggies From Mexico. We are in the process of inviting them to participate. Currently, we represent 40% of the produce being exported by our state.
We are going to promote and position the brand with buyers and supermarkets we are currently working with, and then knock on the doors of those who do not know us yet, or who buy our products indirectly.
Eventually, we believe that farmers from other states, with practices and standards similar to ours, could join our badge and brand.
We also seek to promote the diversification of markets and products, integrating other vegetables into our dynamic, and why not? Even fruits.
6. What are the future expectations for the organization with this new project?
Thanks to sound support of the brand, making fresh Mexican produce of Veggies From Mexico the first choice of distributors, brokers, supermarkets and restaurants in North America.