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World Fresh Produce and Gaetan Bono form alliance

John Groh

World Fresh Produce, an importer and marketer of high-quality produce from around the globe, has formed an alliance with Montreal-based produce distributor Fruits et Legumes Gaetan Bono that will create new opportunities for each company.

The alliance joins two like-minded companies that complement each other, according to Michel Matouk, president of World Fresh, and Salvatore Lavorato, vice president of Bono.

“Michel and I have been friends for years, and we had always looked for ways to benefit each other in business,” said Lavorato. “We felt the time was right to set our sights on a common goal and collectively work towards it.”  

Michel Matouk, president of World Fresh
Produce and Sal Lavorato, vice president of
Fruits et Legumes Gaetan Bono.

“Sal and I started as competitors,” Matouk added. “I was working for a dominant citrus player in Montreal and there was this well-established wholesaler under new management, looking to grow their import deals and disrupt the stagnant market. We hit it off from day one and built a good rapport and business relationship.”

Matouk said that when he parted ways with his former employer and founded World Fresh, he and Lavorato stayed in contact and would occasionally trade with one another when a need would arise.

But with growth in mind for both companies, Matouk and Lavorato began looking for ways to increase their business dealings and take advantage of each other’s strengths.

Lavorato said Bono has been in business for more than 35 years, is the sole wholesaler in the Montreal Terminal Market and a major distributor in the Canadian market, and carries a full-line of both conventional and organic fruits and vegetables. But he said Bono decided to diversify several years ago and add imports to its manifest.

“We didn’t want to stop at only being a wholesaler, we wanted to be a dominant importer as well,” he said. “But in order to be successful as an importer, you need to have year-round deals, and that is an area where World Fresh can benefit us.”

For example, Lavorato said Bono has a good citrus program in Spain, but was lacking connections in Morocco, South Africa and Chile that would enable it to offer a full year program.

“It’s hard to be a dominant player if you only have seasonal product,” he said. “For example, if Spain had a bad year, we would have had difficulty with other sourcing options for that season.”

“We are strong in citrus, and by partnering with us it solidifies the citrus category for Bono and enables them to provide year-round supplies,” said Matouk. “Bono is strong with berries and asparagus, and it has a wide reach with more than 2,500 customers across the spectrum, so that opens up other opportunities for us to explore at World Fresh.”

Aside from their respective strengths and connections, the locations of each company — Bono in Canada and World Fresh in the United States — also works to the advantage of both.

“The U.S. and Canada are two very different markets,” said Lavorato. “The U.S. is a much bigger market and the population is much larger, whereas Canada is more spread out. We already distribute throughout Canada, and now one of the keys for us is to find better deals with the growers to establish solid programs.”

Matouk added that another important benefit of the cross-border relationship is that they can alleviate volume pressure and quality variations from one market to the other.

“We can protect and serve growers’ crops with more outlets,” said Matouk. “A grower doesn’t have a say in the caliber of their fruit. Mother Nature is just going to give them 2x to size 6, and they need to move all the sizes. Certain markets only take 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s, for example, so you have to find a home for the others. By having these two markets, we have a wider customer base and we can take more volume from the grower knowing that we can find a home for all of their products.”

He added that since Canada has different regulations than the U.S., product may be more easily distributed.

“For example, since Canada doesn’t grow any citrus of its own, imported citrus does not need to go through cold treatment like it does for the U.S. market,” said Matouk. “So, we can send product north of the border without having to worry about phytosanitary regulations.”

“It helps prevent added costs and losses for the grower because instead of having to dispose of product that might not be in compliance with regulations, product can be sent to a different market, and for a good price,” said Lavorato.

Patrick Haines, recently appointed executive vice president of World Fresh, added, “The established access to both markets is definitely a competitive advantage. Growers talk a lot about manifests, and the alliance of our two companies allows us to support a wider range of growers’ manifests, which is very beneficial for them.”

Adriana Borsellino, marketing manager of World Fresh Produce, noted that with Bono’s operations at the new terminal market and with all of the full-service operations it has put into play recently, “It puts us in a position to offer excellent full-service operations from two different countries, so we can better service our customers. It also gives us scalability because the infrastructure is in place on both sides of the border.”

She added that by pooling their networks, “We have our ear to the ground about new potential varieties coming out that we can test or offer to retailers, who are always looking for new products or origins. It gives us the opportunity to be nimble and perhaps offer an alternative if there is a problem with supply. So, we have stronger buying power and we can keep supplies stable. It’s truly a win-win-win situation for World Fresh, Bono and our customers.”

Matouk said both companies look forward to utilizing each other’s established business relationships to the benefit of the alliance. He pointed to the outstanding logistics services World Fresh receives from Manfredi, which could also be applied to Bono. And Lavorato said Bono has an existing partnership with a packaging company in Montreal that enables it to offer custom bagging solutions for its customers, which can also benefit World Fresh and its customers.

“Bono is a pillar in the Montreal market and in Canada in general,” Lavorato said. “Via the alliance, World Fresh is connecting with a solid and established company that has been in business for 35-plus years and has continued to grow. We are a combination of old school and new school. Bono and World Fresh are not two start-ups taking on the industry.”

Yet Haines was quick to point out that while neither company is a start-up per se, “We do have a start-up mentality as an alliance, and we have a hungry approach to succeed and grow while maintaining a mature perspective that comes with years of experience.

“This is another step in our growth strategy at World Fresh, and the alliance with Bono is super strategic bringing together two high-energy, forward-looking and growth-oriented companies,” Haines continued. “It’s an exciting time that has strong implications for growth in the future.”

To accommodate the growth, Haines said both companies are looking for existing industry talent as well as talent under development to join the team and learn the business and expand their area of responsibility.

“There are a lot of people out there with talent who are not reaching their potential, and this would be a great opportunity for them,” said Haines.

Matouk and Lavorato agreed, saying the alliance brings together two like-minded and dynamic teams with a goal of aggressive expansion.

“The best is yet to come,” said Matouk.

John Groh

John Groh

About John Groh  |  email

John Groh graduated from the University of San Diego in 1989 with a bachelors of arts degree in English. Following a brief stint as a sportswriter covering the New York Giants football team, he joined The Produce News in 1995 as an assistant editor and worked his way up the ranks, becoming publisher in 2006. He and his wife, Mary Anne, live in northern New Jersey in the suburbs of New York City.


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November 28, 2023

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