It is an honor to run a family business. I am grateful for the trust I have been given and I use it as a source of inspiration in my work – Diego Ley Vela
In an interesting interview for Veggies from Mexico Diego Ley Vela, who is currently the CEO of Del Campo Supreme, shares with us his experience of collaborating in the family business; his perception of the industry, the corporate philosophy that has made it a successful company and how he contributes to the creativity and vigor of the new generations.
1. Could you share with us a little bit of your professional background?
My career began when I was very young, visiting the fields with my father and working in Ley stores during summer. In 2008, while I was studying in my senior year, I formally worked in the Ley de Abastos store where I worked in all the commercial departments. Finally, in 2009 I joined Del Campo where I started in grain production and later joined the Nogales Arizona team. After working in the warehouse and then in sales, in 2015 I was appointed General Manager of Del Campo, Supreme, a subsidiary of Del Campo Mexico.
2. What has the experience of leading a third-generation family business been like, what have been the main challenges you have faced?
It is an honor to lead a family business. I appreciate the trust I have been given and use it as a source of inspiration in my work. While we are a family business, we follow the rules and protocols of professional corporate governance that help us make clear and transparent decisions.
In the same vein, I am fortunate that my previous bosses and peers always treated me without any special consideration for being part of the family, and now as a director, I am accountable to the board of directors in a professional manner. That said, we are several family members involved in the business and we have formed a great partnership where we help each other to improve, meet challenges, and can also be emotional support when things are not going well.
Our great challenge is to continue with the well-honed vision of our founder but with the creativity and vigor of the new generations.
3. What are the philosophy and core values that you consider making Del Campo a successful company?
The company starts with a clear vision of success, of moving forward and excelling without hesitation, without questioning too much. That’s how my dad thinks. The company that has been shaped is one based on hard work and serious commitments first to employees and then to customers. We believe in the old saying: “Set your house in order”. Del Campo is a company with a long-term vision where resources are reinvested and applied to the foundations that will give us strength and differentiate us in the future. This has translated into reliable products that we are proud to produce and market. My father as president and Juan Jose Ley as director of production, have been very accurate in how and where to navigate the company in times of inflection in the industry.
4. Can you tell us a little about Del Campo Supreme and what are its main functions?
Del Campo Supreme, Inc. is a fresh produce marketer for the North American market based in Nogales, AZ. While most of the products we market are produced by our parent company, Del Campo y Asociados, S.A. de C.V., we also market third-party products that complement our portfolio.
5. What are the main fresh products you market?
From the tomato family, we commercialize vine ripe tomatoes, Grape tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, Red Beefsteak tomatoes, and flavor tomatoes such as Heirlooms and colored grape tomatoes. We have also been successfully producing and marketing blueberries for 4 years.
6. To what other destinations do you export your products?
Currently, we export to the United States and Canada.
7. How do you think consumers’ expectations have changed in the last 10 years, what do they value more now of purchase?
Nowadays consumers are much more demanding and better informed. You can see it on supermarket shelves where SKUs have multiplied, and restaurants make a fruit or vegetable the star of the dish and not just the protein. While the cultural demographics have grown, the average consumer, especially the young, has broadened their food preferences. As there is more emphasis on healthy eating, they also demand that the experience includes good taste and that the origins of the food are responsibly produced.
8. How important do you think Mexico’s agricultural industry is to the U.S. fresh produce industry?
In that sense, I think the people of the U.S. have the great advantage and good fortune to have Mexico as a neighbor. Without Mexican produce and open trade, the American consumer would be more dependent on processed foods for their diet and health since fresh produce would not be affordable for many consumers. Our industries are symbiotically intertwined whereby the American consumer, the businesses of both countries, and the Mexican worker benefit by reducing migration pressure to the US.
9. How important is the port of Nogales, Arizona for Mexico’s fresh produce trade in the U.S.?
Nogales, Arizona, is the natural port because of its geographic location for more than 20% of the fresh produce produced in Mexico. It is a very important one. In 2021, The import value through this port exceeded 3.4 billion USD.
10. What impact do you see food safety and social responsibility having on the industry? How has it changed over the years?
The processes and culture surrounding food safety have experienced a revolution in the last 20 years. In previous years, the responsibility for sanitizing and cooking food well relied almost exclusively on the consumer. Now, the growers and distributors must ensure that the food they offer to the market is safe. In 2011, for example, the United States established the “Food Safety Modernization Act”, whose rules we must follow to export.
Having good food safety practices and social and environmental responsibility is a moral duty, in addition, the laws that impact our industry have made important progress. In the U.S. and Canada, more companies are already demanding social responsibility certifications and I believe that in the future it will be a mandatory requirement for exporting. In addition, businesses that are more aligned with a genuine concern for the treatment of their workers tend to be more productive and successful.
11. What are the main trends that will influence the industry in the coming years?
Considering the industry’s high costs in all areas, I think it will be an existential situation to become even more efficient. To have more awareness when planning the entire program and leave fewer variables to chance.
The use of Artificial Intelligence in agriculture I think it will have a very important influence not only on production processes but also on marketing.