Auerbach calls ‘managing issues’ the key to growth
Paul Auerbach, president of Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., in Secaucus, NJ, admits that being in the produce business isn’t easy. He is constantly being thrown curveballs that cause problems and call for adjustment. Nonetheless, his company continues to grow and continues to thrive.
“We have to manage these issues just like everyone else,” he said. “I like to think that the key to our success is that we disappoint less than others.”
That ability to figure it out and make things right isn’t happenchance, according to the veteran produce professional. “We’ve been doing this for a long time,” he said. “We have many long-standing deals and relationships with customers and suppliers. I’m a firm believer in the relationship aspect of this business.”
He said it is those relationships forged over decades that allow the company to manage the difficult situations in a manner that is satisfactory to the customer. Again, he noted that it isn’t always possible to make situations perfect, but the key is to minimize those outcomes. He added that most of the difficult challenges revolve around the logistics piece.
Focusing on the Peruvian asparagus deal, Auerbach said volume is headed toward its peak period during the final quarter of the calendar year and he anticipates selling more asparagus from that South American source than he did last year. “We sell retail, wholesale and to foodservice,” he said. “For us, the foodservice business is better than pre-pandemic. It’s both because we have increased our market share and our customers are growing their business. And there is more usage of asparagus at foodservice.”
Though the logistics piece is difficult, Auerbach said gives him a competitive advantage. His customers rely on him to be able to figure it out — and he does.
Another issue he encounters is trying to get the sizes that his customers want. “Right now, we are still seeing a lot of small sizes out of Peru. Large sizes and jumbos are tough to find. So far, we are seeing a lower size profile.”
Looking forward, Auerbach said there should be promotable volumes by early October, but he is not certain there will be the promotable pricing that retailers are looking for. With higher grower costs for all inputs and significantly higher shipping costs both on the travel from Peru as well as on land within the United States, Auerbach said low ad-inducing, price points may be hard to find.
Auerbach expects to source Peruvian asparagus through the fall and winter and into the new year. “Usually, Mexico starts during the early part of February but every year is different. We have to wait and see, but we will be getting a good pull from Peru from October on.”