Henry celebrates 25th year of avocados from Mexico
The two Henry Avocado distribution centers in Texas are a clear indication of the company’s high regard for avocados from Mexico and an affirmation that the location of Henry’s centers is motivated by its freshness mantra “Always on time, always just ripe!”
The sequence of events began in 1997, when the first shipments of avocados from Mexico began arriving in the United States. Within two decades, as demand for its popular, custom-ripened fruit soared across the country, Henry designed, equipped and staffed distribution centers in San Antonio (2008) and Houston (2015), just 200 miles to the east, which gave it a total of seven such facilities in four states.
The San Antonio operation now has 19 ripening rooms capable of processing over 40,000 cartons for shipment each week. Seven years later Henry opened the center in Houston to reach additional customers for its Bravocado and Green Goddess avocados in the north and east.
Houston also bags avocados from this location and after its recent expansion has 27 ripening rooms and a ripening capacity of 334 pallets. The capability enables the custom-ripening of over 2,000,000 cartons of organic and conventional avocados per year.
Managing sales from both centers’ locations, national sales manager Jon Ullrich has been representing Henry since 1997. A sixth-generation Texan, with family ties to the fresh produce industry going back seven decades, he implements the master planned freshness strategy with hands-on contact with grower/shippers and customers on both sides of the border. The close proximity of the two Texas centers allows them to share available product and delivery to high population centers like Dallas with fresh on time deliveries when inventory may be low at one center or the other.
In Ullrich’s estimation, avocados from Mexico have grown in stature since the company began its association with select grower/shippers from Michoacan and Jalisco. They are now the source of 90 percent of the avocados Henry distributes throughout the year. “Quality from Mexico is a given,” he said. “Even with the huge increase in quantity over the years, there has never been a problem meeting our high standards.”
Mario Gomez, who manages the Houston regional center, visits Henry grower/shippers on a frequent basis to personally attest Henry’s rigid safety and quality standards are maintained and surpassed for Henry customers.
“These grower/shippers,” Gomez said, “are committed to our market’s high requirements as they have been re-investing a significant portion of the increased revenue they receive to modernize their respective cold storage facilities and transportation assets.”
Billie Jo Dziewit assists Jon and Mario as transportation manager in charge of shipping from the Laredo cross-docking facility for both centers. She is also responsible for coordinating the transportation from both centers to customer locations in multiple states — on time and as ordered.
Henry centers maintain a fleet of trucks. Their trailers are refrigerated to 40 degrees to maintain the cold chain on the road. All to ensure that retailer and foodservice customers receive the freshest possible custom-ripened avocados to accelerate sales and reduce shrink.
A pioneer since its founding in 1925 in Escondido, CA, Henry began custom-ripening in 1983. The company became a year-round distributor in 1990, importing first from Chile then Mexico. Now avocados from Mexico dominate as a trusted source for Henry even during its California growing season.
Henry considers the fresh supply chain as the key to the popularity of Henry’s brands. Quality considerations have dictated where and when its seven regional distribution centers have gone on line. Each is strategically located within close proximity to major customer distribution centers and highways to facilitate the exact fulfillment of orders by minimizing transportation time.
In addition to San Antonio and Houston, Henry has two regional distribution centers in Escondido, CA, and one each in Phoenix, Milpitas, CA and Charlotte, NC. All seven are Primus Labs-certified and meet or exceed the federal, state and Industry Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines. All seven also have Oxyion air purification systems that reduce bacteria, viruses and mold to keep the safest, most sanitary fresh chain environment possible.
Photo: Mario Gomez, manager of Henry’s Houston regional distribution center, in one of the 27 ripening rooms where Henry is capable of custom-ripening 2,000,000 cartons of avocados per year.