The history of the produce industry is a history of relationships. And perhaps no greater testament to that notion can be found than with the history of a company like West Pak Avocado. From a single packinghouse in Southern California to a pioneering worldwide avocado operation, company Co-Founders Galen Newhouse and Randy Shoup have nurtured a culture and a network of ties that have helped transform the avocado category from a seasonal curiosity to a must-have year-round.
Now celebrating 35 years as innovators in one of the most dynamic categories in fresh produce, the West Pak family is no less motivated to continue growing and gaining ground than when it first began. This year, West Pak is embarking on a new chapter in its history, transferring control of the company to its Board of Directors and to CEO Mario Pacheco as Randy and Galen retire. This new chapter will undoubtedly be powerfully informed by the legacy of the company’s forward-thinking founders and the deep ties these two have created among their peers.
“We never set out to be the biggest in the industry, but we did aim to be the best. From the beginning, our mission was always to conduct business with integrity, to deliver on our promise, and to provide the best possible produce to our customers,” Randy tells me, noting that, for West Pak, the integrity of one’s promise and personal relationships are a high priority. “We have always wanted to provide service, not only to our customers, but also to our growers. It has always been essential to service and support the growers, as those relationships you build, and that reciprocity you nurture, become your lifeline to the product.”
“I think it’s important to say that, for Galen and I, our company is everything to us.”
- Randy shoup, co-founder
Galen echoes the sentiment, noting that strong ties between the company, its customers, and its growers have been of paramount importance in West Pak’s continued success.
“We learned pretty quickly that you’ve got to stay in touch to stay relevant, so we did just that. We put a lot of time and effort into cultivating these relationships and worked hard to always be fair and to be good on our word. Integrity has always been our cornerstone to doing business.”
Foundations and Expansions
In 1982, Galen and Randy established West Pak as a growing and shipping operation based out of a small packinghouse in Fallbrook, California. With a focus on producing the best possible product and an unrelenting drive to innovate and expand its operations, the company would grow rapidly over the next 35 years to become a major force in the avocado industry.
As West Pak expanded, so too did the avocado industry. The company opened a 30,000-square-foot packing facility in Temecula, California, in 1992 and a 50,000-square-foot packing facility in Uruapan, Michoacán, operated by the company’s Mexican subsidiary, Grupo West Pak de Mexico, in 2004. Current facilities have expanded to five distribution facilities totaling 315,042-square-feet across the United States and Mexico.
The company’s expansion into Mexico would prove to be a significant boon not only to West Pak, but also to the avocado industry as a whole.
“One of our most significant accomplishments was seeing that the market in Mexico was ready to explode in the early 90s, which was before Mexico was permitted to import produce into the United States,” Randy explains. Though the company initially entered the region to better export avocados to various Asian markets, the company soon realized the promise of its expanding operations south of the U.S. border. “We helped facilitate importing Mexican avocados into the U.S., which was a slow and painstaking process. It started by allowing a small amount of avocados to be shipped into 13 northern U.S. states a few months out of the year, and once the process proved to be successful and to U.S. standards, the restrictions were eventually eased and then lifted—making the move into Mexico one of the best decisions that we have ever made.”
From there, the company continued to cultivate relationships with both domestic and international growers that would translate into year-round product availability. And those enduring relationships, Galen and Randy both agree, are the touchstones of West Pak’s success.
“West Pak works closely with our growers to ensure that they are producing the best possible fruit for the market and are adhering to strict U.S. standards. We are also taking extreme care in the sorting, bagging, and shipping process to be sure that we are delivering only the freshest fruit in a timely manner to our various customers,” notes Galen.
It’s that drive to provide exceptional value to its customers—including value-added services such as bagging, conditioning, and delivery—that has propelled West Pak to constantly reinvent itself. When I ask how the company differentiates itself in an increasingly crowded avocado category, both Randy and Galen offer different takes on the same notion; West Pak has always been driven to be the best—to offer the best product and the best experience possible to its customers, its employees, and its partners.
“In a word, ‘innovation’ is what sets West Pak apart,” notes Galen. “We are always looking ahead for new opportunities. Whether it’s purchasing state-of-the-art equipment to help streamline a process or expanding distribution into a new territory, we have never cowered from a challenge.”
Carrying Forth a Legacy
Now entering the next phase in the company’s continuous evolution, Randy and Galen tell me that it is because they have transitioned the company into good hands that they can now step down and let a fresh-but-focused vision and experienced set of hands take the wheel.
“After 35 years building West Pak, it’s time to step down and let the next generation take the reins,” explains Galen. “This transition has been in the works for the past five or six years. We prepared financially, we installed a board of directors with outside directors, and then we set out to find the best possible person for the job. Mario was the clear choice—not just because of his background and track record in the produce industry, but because he met a lot of our same values.”
“IN A WORD, ‘innovation’ is what sets west pak apart.”
- Galen Newhouse, Co-Founder
With Mario taking the helm—and bringing more than two decades of experience to the role of CEO—Galen and Randy are confident in the future of their life’s work.
“With 21 years at Chiquita, Mario comes from an extensive background in the produce industry and has achieved much success on the business side. However, it was his ethics and respect for culture and family that sold us,” notes Galen. “When you look at his personality, skill set, the company he came from, and the way he’s delivered coming on board, we feel very comfortable with West Pak’s future with Mario Pacheco at the helm.”
For West Pak’s two founders, the next step isn’t merely stepping down; it’s reinforcing the enduring legacy that Galen and Randy have built—a legacy based on a relentless drive to innovate and be the best and the outstanding integrity of the company’s product, its people, and its culture.
“I think it’s important to say that, for Galen and I, our company is everything to us. It took the majority of our lives to construct and to grow, and it is our legacy,” Randy adds. “And we don’t want that to end with us retiring. We want it to prosper and grow, and it’s up to the people that we have in place, or who will be in place in the future, to keep it going.”
With deep roots and a reach toward the stars, the future is bright for the next generation of the West Pak family.