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Greenyard Logistics USA: Beyond a Building

If home is where the heart is, then moving is quite the adventure. For Greenyard Logistics USA, as the company relocates into a brand new state-of-the-art facility, that adventure is one that will prime it for growth.

Located in Swedesboro, New Jersey, the company’s new facility is in close proximity to the northeastern ports, a major receiving point for imported fresh produce in the U.S. It is the first American building and expansion of Belgium-based Greenyard, a global market leader in fresh fruits and vegetables and parent to both Greenyard Logistics USA and Seald Sweet.

The scale to which Greenyard Logistics USA has taken in opening its new facility is awe-inspiring to say the least, having opened its doors June 26, 2017, to 152,000-square-feet of space, 30 doors, 8,000 pallet positions, and an immeasurable influx of possibilities.

“Any time you move an entire facility there are going to be challenges, especially when you are just about tripling your size–but it’s a great problem to have,” Greenyard Logistics USA Head of New Business Development and Vice President, Steve Marinello, tells me when I ask how everything is going. “We’re installing new machinery and new lines into a bigger facility, as well as taking on additional business. Needless to say, we’re keeping busy!”

Formerly known as UNIVEG Logistics America, the company has been operating in the New Jersey-Philadelphia area since 2008. The success, which ultimately led to the expansion and new facility, can be greatly attributed to Greenyard’s well-seasoned core operations team, including General Manager John Garrett. John, like many others on Greenyard’s team, has a genuine passion for the growth of the business and taking on challenges.

Steve Marinello (centered left) and Mayda Sotomayor-Kirk (centered right) with the Greenyard Logistics USA team

“We have come a long way over the years, thanks to the dedication, long hours, and sacrifice of our staff,” says Mayda Sotomayor-Kirk, Managing Director of Greenyard Logistics USA. “Our growth has been a direct result of a tremendous team effort.”

The growth spurt in size and resources is coming with partnerships to match that place a key emphasis on the company mission statement of being, “committed to grow consumption of fruit and vegetables for a healthier future, by partnering with the best parties in the chain from fork to field to meet consumer needs creating value for all.” Now, it has increased capacity and high-quality added value services to offer its existing and new customers, as well as service-providing to both growers and retailers.

The facility has the design and the flow to help achieve all of that, with many provisions in the new building that offer complete cold chain management.

“We have put a lot of thought and planning into this facility,” says Mayda. “We’ve incorporated our experiences of what works in this business, combined with technology and know-how of our European entities utilizing what works in those markets. Greenyard is very experienced in the logistics field, owning and operating more than 30 distribution centres in the E.U. and other markets around the world. So, it has been a great advantage to leverage those practices in our new facility.”

The overall structure and operational flow of the new building has been designed as a fluid, flowing tool for moving fresh produce. The dock system allows inbound and outbound drivers to open their doors from the inside of the building so that the cold chain isn’t broken—product is never exposed to temperatures outside of Greenyard’s control.

“This is very important,” Steve impresses. “Because while you might have a refrigerated dock, which is pretty common, you still won’t get the same benefits you’re looking for if the driver has to spend 10 to 15 minutes backing up and exposing the product to the wrong air temperature–either hot and humid in the summer or ice cold in the winter. Not breaking that cold chain is the complete goal here in this building.”

Greenyard’s design also includes wider, longer loading platforms for a smoother transition as trucks load or unload, finding literally no bumps in the road to ensure minimal room for damaging the product.

And Steve is no stranger to any side of the produce chain. He may have stepped into his role just last April, but he has not only a noted history with Seald Sweet as its former Director of Imports, and before that a Foodservice Sales Manager, but a robust tenure in logistics with Miami-based Flagler Global Logistics, as well as a buyer for US Foods. These various roles have fostered a multi-faceted business vantage point, from growers, retailers, and sales perspectives, to logistics experience. This helps greatly in seeing beyond logistical efficiencies, to what’s necessary to meeting customers’ needs.

(1) Seald Sweet Clementines on the grading line (2) Seald Sweet Clementines on the packing line (3) Part of Greenyard Logistics 8,000 pallet positions (4) Part of Greenyard Logistics dock

Greenyard Logistics USA and Seald Sweet currently represent parent company Greenyard’s North American-based businesses, sharing that commitment to customers and a passion for produce. The investment in this new facility alone serves as a good demonstration to that value.

“This is a very exciting time to roll out Greenyard’s plans and deliver this service–to unveil our expansion and our growth,” Steve comments, hinting that there’s much more to come. “In addition to the 152,000-square-feet we have, we are poised for a 48,000-square-foot expansion to this facility. It hasn’t been executed yet; we will do that as the business dictates, but we have the space and the plans completed to be ready for that.”

“Expansion in the U.S. market is one of Greenyard’s driving objectives and part of our corporate strategic plan,” shares Mayda. “The U.S. is considered a growth market for the fresh division of our company, so this new facility is part of that plan and continued growth.”

Steve Marinello, Head of New Business Development & Vice President, Greenyard Logistics USA“To be a part of that customer’s trust and of the supply chain is a big responsibility, but it makes you proud to provide those solutions and that service.”

Steve continues, “It’s exciting when a company makes the kind of investment Greenyard has made in this facility, and the dedication it has. This company has been in this market for a long time. Seald Sweet alone has been an industry leader for over a hundred years. Then you have Greenyard, who has been a dominant player in Europe, with growth plans now in the U.S. market.”

So, what is the model that has led to so much success? A focus on not only servicing retailers, but connecting them to growers.

“Facilitating the logistics division of Greenyard is how we connect those two ends,” Steve says. “And doing it in an efficient way that protects the freshness and guarantees the quality of the product is our focus.”

Greenyard employee scanning a palletThat focus has not only brought Greenyard and Seald Sweet where they are today, but also guides them toward a future that continues to carry that message and more as it looks to serve as one of the best partners to retailers in a fast-moving landscape across the U.S. market.

“This industry is going through a metamorphosis with the Food Safety Modernization Act,” Steve comments. “There are a lot of things happening in our industry here in the United States. Just as the act says, it’s a modernization of our industry. So, how do we make doing business easy and secure? That’s our goal, to provide solutions for companies.”

With a lifetime in the industry and never a moment’s hesitation that he is where he is meant to be, all I have left to ask Steve is what it is about Greenyard and its business that fuels that passion.

“Produce...it’s just a fantastic business. It’s a great feeling to walk into one of your customer’s stores and see the product that you had a hand in packing or delivering to them,” Steve says. “To be a part of that customer’s trust and of the supply chain is a big responsibility, and it makes you proud to provide those solutions and that service. When you get bitten by the produce bug, it’s not if there are issues, it’s how you solve them.”

This is one of the points of differentiation with Greenyard’s team. Mayda comments, “I heard a quote not too long ago that I feel represents my feelings on our new facility: ‘It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; it’s the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.’ I consider that foundation to be the people on our team.”

And how could anyone argue with that?