IPR Fresh keeps growing after 20 years
It was in December of 2002 that the late Francisco (Pancho) Obregon opened IPR Fresh in Nogales, AZ, with the idea of brokering a few fresh produce items and bringing them into the U.S. market.
“Our first product was the bell pepper,” said Jose Luis Obregon, son of the founder and the current president. “We’ve been growing ever since. We’ve had a good track record of delivering high-quality bell peppers and we’ve built strong relationships with trusted growers in Mexico that are focused on sustainable farming practices.”
Obregon said IPR Fresh does bring in other vegetables from Mexico as well but bell peppers, including all the colors, make up about 70 percent of its total business.
The majority of the bells come into the state in bulk packs, but it also offers value-added bags, such as the two-pounder and the three-count bag of mixed colors. “These innovative, special presentations are growing in popularity,” he said.
Obregon joined the family company as its president 11 years ago at the invitation of his father and two brothers, Enrique and Alvaro. Previously he was executive director of the U.S.-based Hass Avocado Board. Today, he runs the company along with his two brothers.
“We’ve had good growth ever since I started,” he said. “We started as a small company, but we developed new marketing strategies and we have more than quadrupled our size since then.”
He said the future looks equally bright. “We are very excited about future growth. We like slow and steady growth and that’s what we have been doing.”
Obregon added that about half of the company’s bell pepper volume is grown and certified as organic peppers.
“We usually get a good premium for the organic packs but Mother Nature has a role to play,” he said. “Sometimes we are long on organics and the price is very close to the conventional price.”
While January was a good volume month for peppers with promotable volume and pricing, Obregon told The Produce News on Jan. 30 that there is a bit of a supply gap because of earlier cold weather. “The first set (from the plants) came in from mid-December to mid-January in good volume but now we are seeing a gap as the second set comes into play.”
The IPR Fresh executive said the company brings in most of its produce through the crossing in Nogales, though some of it does cross in Texas for specific customers in that area. “We have a state-of-the-art facility close to the (Nogales) border crossing, which allows us to provide lots of value to our customers,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are selling service; we are selling 24/7 availability. That’s what differentiates us,” he said.