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Divine Flavor’s value steeped in tradition

By
Tim Linden

To Divine Flavor’s Chief Marketing Officer Alan Aguirre Camou, the company’s value in the marketplace is tied directly to its three founders and the vision they established decades ago in the Sonoran Desert of Mexico.

“We are one of the largest grape producers in the world,” he said, “and at the start of the season we always talk about the crop and how it looks this season. But what is more important is what happened when we were founded 30 years ago and how that is sustaining the brand through the next generation.”

Alan Aguirre Jr. said it was the founders’ commitment to quality, flavor and sustainable growing practices that launched the brand and those value propositions are still the driving force behind everything they do.

“A great brand always starts with a real story,” he said as he noted Divine Flavor’s deep roots.

Don Enrique Camou, who Aguirre reported was a traditional farmer with a great deal of experience, invited his two sons-in-law – Carlos Bon Sr. and Alan Aguirre Sr. – to start a new farming operation based on those three guiding principles, which was eventually called Grupo ALTA. In the very beginning, they focused their attention on the dirt by using organic practices to build the soil so that it could produce the best tasting crops with the highest quality.

“It was an evolutionary process,” Aguirre Jr. said, noting that they actually started with green beans to launch the company because they were less expensive to grow.

And in fact, Don Enrique did not have experience with grapes at the time. But the partners persevered, improved the soil, launched a social responsibility campaign and began growing grapes. After experimenting for many years, they “hit a homerun” with their grape production when they secured a contract with U.S.-based retailer in 1999. “It was a very big deal for us,” Aguirre said, adding that the retailer remains an important customer to this day.

In the early 2000s, the next generation of the founding families joined the organization with Carlos Bon’s three sons coming aboard. Carlos Jr. handled sales and promotion, while Daniel worked the crops and David was the financial expert. In 2006, industry veteran Pedro Batiz Sr. joined the team and Divine Flavor was launched as Grupo ALTA’s distribution company in Nogales, Arizona.

About a decade ago, Alan Aguirre Jr. joined the organization as chief marketing officer after gaining necessary experience outside of the company. The goal is to continue to build the brand both with grapes and other products. “We want to be a global brand,” said Aguirre.

He noted that Divine Flavor is one of the top five importers of grapes into the United States and it considers itself the top grower-shipper. Through its commitment to quality, flavor, sustainable farming practices and social responsibility, Aguirre said it is focused on helping retailers improve “shelf traffic” within their stores.

He reiterated that it is the flavor and quality of the product, along with the brand story, that can move the needle on sales. Aguirre is excited about the possibilities with Autumncrisp, a grape variety developed by Sun World and being backed by that company’s promotional campaign. Divine Flavor is producing that variety in large numbers with many hectares devoted to it on its acreage in Jalisco, Mexico, which is the earliest producing grape district south of the border.

Carlos Bon, senior vice president of sales  for Divine Flavor, reported on March 25 that the company began its grape harvest the week before with its first shipment of the Cotton Candy variety from its operation in Jalisco. “The expectation for our Don Mario location is very high as we believe this farm is entering a more mature phase (being past the adolescent years),” he said.  “Our team is very confident entering the season because they’ve had time to navigate through all the challenging obstacles associated with cultivating a successful grape production.”

He added that since Jalisco is so close to the U.S. market, the picking of the grapes can be timed for optimum flavor. “We are able to reach full flavor of the grapes and send them to our customers within two days. At this time of the year, flavor and quality are such important factors because the industry is transitioning from one hemisphere to another,” Bon said, noting that Chilean grapes are still in the U.S. marketplace after a long journey from South America.

He added that with its Jalisco harvest, Divine Flavor is the first grower-shipper to start in North America. At its Don Mario operation, the company only grows the newer varieties, such as Cotton Candy, Sweet Globe, Sweet Celebration, Timpson and Autumncrisp.

Bon reiterated that the company is “extremely bullish” on Autumncrisp and will have exponential growth on that variety this year.  “Our sales team agrees as well that this location is hands down the best location for quality out of all of our locations, including Peru and Chile. This location is key for producing flavor,” he said.

Tim Linden

Tim Linden

About Tim Linden  |  email

Tim Linden grew up in a produce family as both his father and grandfather spent their business careers on the wholesale terminal markets in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Tim graduated from San Diego State University in 1974 with a degree in journalism. Shortly thereafter he began his career at The Packer where he stayed for eight years, leaving in 1983 to join Western Growers as editor of its monthly magazine. In 1986, Tim launched Champ Publishing as an agricultural publishing specialty company.

Today he is a contract publisher for several trade associations and writes extensively on all aspects of the produce business. He began writing for The Produce News in 1997, and currently wears the title of Editor at Large.

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