Harold Edwards, Limoneira's CEO caught up with Produce Retailer's Susan Sites to provide an update for the Publication's special November December Citrus Marketing Issue. We've provided an early peek for you here.
Coming off the heels of its 125th year anniversary, Limoneira is busy implementing its One World of Citrus model for long-term growth. By creating multiple sourcing points around the world, the company can virtually eliminate seasonality and become a 365-day/year supply chain to the markets it serves around the world. CEO Harold Edwards explains, "Along with our own lemon production in California and Arizona, we source product out of Mexico, we grow, pack and ship in Chile, and we have co-packing relationships in Argentina and South Africa. Putting all those pieces together, we are able to deliver consistently high-quality lemons every day of the year, garnering greater customer loyalty and capturing premium pricing."
Edwards anticipates growing about 50% of their lemons themselves and partnering with like-minded, high-quality growers to produce the remaining 50%. Their global growth strategy target is 15 million cartons per year. "We think we can accomplish our goal within the next 5 to 7 years," says Edwards. Moving towards that goal, Limoneira has recently acquired two new packinghouses in California and is actively working to recruit outside growers.
Since Limoneira was formed, ownership has always had a strong commitment to sustainable business practices. To minimize pesticide use, the company pioneered IPM (integrated pest management), which uses beneficial insects to fight bad bugs and results in a healthier product.
While some companies view its workforce as the first area to cut costs, Limoneira has always viewed employees as its greatest asset. The company invests in them by helping provide housing, education, and healthcare. As a result, Limoneira enjoys very low attrition. "We have generations of families who have worked for us," says Edwards. "Our employees are very loyal, and that creates a very stable work environment." Limoneira's philanthropy also reaches beyond the workforce into the community. Through its donations to local hospitals, schools, and libraries, Limoneira benefits from the support of the community.
Continuing its commitment to clean energy, Limoneira has a goal of generating more kilowatts than it uses daily. Currently, solar power accounts for one-third of the company's electric usage. A new partnership with Tesla batteries will help store the energy captured by the sun. Edwards says, "We want to get off the grid and be more self-sufficient." Water consumption is another area of serious conservation, as the company works to become more efficient in its water usage.
Along with the pride of knowing you are doing the right thing, Edwards appreciates that sustainability has become important for many retail and foodservice customers. "It's become its own market segment," says Edwards. "Many big customers rank their suppliers with a sustainability index. We rank highly, so we get greater patronage because of our initiatives. It's been a key component to our marketing strategy."
Being a publicly traded company makes Limoneira unique in the industry. Historically, the company has focused heavily on production and farming. In the last decade, it has turned the corner to becoming a food business/supplier.
"With the evolution of middle classes all over the world, we feel it's an exciting time to be in this space," says Edwards. "As disposable income increases in other countries, you see more migration towards Western eating so more people are shopping in supermarkets."
While the Limoneira brand is relatively unknown as the consumer level, it is well known to foodservice buyers.
"Delivering unique promotional programs for our customers remains an important part of our value-added proposition," says Edwards. "Creative displays, merchandising and collaboration with opinion leaders in key markets, enables us to pursue unconventional ways to use and promote lemons. How can lemons be used as a beauty product? What are some health and wellness tips for incorporating lemons into your diet? How are lemons used as a natural cleaning agent?
"Through the help of social media and bloggers, we are using new ways to promote our lemons," says Edwards. "The impact has been phenomenal, creating new demand for our product.