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Green Lighting Growth: A Q&A With Karin Gardner, Executive Director of Marketing, Oppy

Green Lighting Growth: A Q&A With Karin Gardner, Executive Director of Marketing, Oppy

Perhaps my favorite characterizations of the color green surround health, adventure, and hope—a few things we could always use a bit more of, especially as we enter 2021. The word “green” has its own connotations, most famously representing cash flow and Mother Nature. It also bears a deep connection to one of the produce industry’s largest categories: avocados. Or, in other words, green gold.

Green has ambition, much the same as our industry friends at Oppy. Despite the year’s challenges, 2020 has been one of growth for the company, with everything from expansion to acquisitions propelling its success. Closing out this dynamic year, Oppy has announced an exciting purchase to acquire a 65-percent stake in Eco Farms.

This landmark acquisition brings a competitive edge to Oppy’s avocado program, bolstering its already robust operations and reimagining Eco Farms’ iconic brand image. As the recently announced partnership continues to take shape, I sat down with Karin Gardner, Executive Director of Marketing at Oppy, to get the inside scoop on this evergreen opportunity.

Chandler James: This is a very exciting development in Oppy’s avocado program! Why did the company choose to make this investment?

Karin Gardner: Avocados have been one of the fastest-growing categories in the last decade, and it shows no signs of letting up. Oppy felt that the time had come to branch out and build this key area of our business, and Eco Farms is an absolute expert in avocados. We have learned a lot from the team and know they are linked with some of the finest growers in Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Chile, while also producing in California. This is the first time in recent memory that Oppy will market California avocados through an integrated partnership.

CJ: As you mentioned, the category as a whole is continuing to grow, so how do you expect this unique acquisition to help put you ahead of the pack?

KG: Oppy’s presence is now on the farm and will have access to Eco Farms’ grower network in Mexico and South America, in addition to an ownership stake in 700 acres of avocados in the Temecula, California, area. We bring the technology to drive avocados through the supply chain efficiently, along with marketing support that enhances the value proposition for retailers, which has been accelerated by Eco Farms’ custom packing capabilities. Together, we have about a dozen strategically located ripening facilities across North America. We are structured as one strong, smart team, motivated to make the Eco Farms brand the avocados of choice.

CJ: It sounds like the two companies have collaborated closely on this supply chain strategy—how long has Oppy partnered with Eco Farms and at what capacity?

KG: Our parent company, Total Produce PLC, has been invested in Eco Farms since 2014, so our relationship goes back several years. Working closely with Total Produce, we officially made the purchase in April 2020 as part of a strategy to further integrate Eco Farms into the Total Produce Group, but decided to wait to spread the news for several months. Our agreement was signed just as the pandemic hit, and we felt it was more prudent to wait until later in the year to go live with the news. We often wished we could work through things in person over a cup of coffee instead of by phone, email, or Zoom, but we came to an extremely exciting agreement nonetheless.

“We bring the technology to drive avocados through the supply chain efficiently, along with marketing support that enhances the value proposition for retailers...”

Karin Gardner, Executive Director of Marketing, Oppy

Oppy’s and Eco Farms’ leaders quickly gained a deeper and better understanding of our respective business models. We identified exciting synergies and realized that, together, we could develop a strategy to bring forward a premium avocado product and service package that we believe is second to none. The new Eco Farms brand is live, and our avocado inventory is now fully shared, so it’s all systems go.

CJ: That being said, in what ways has Oppy helped to elevate the Eco Farms brand?

KG: Symbolic of our combined partnership, we are bringing together a refreshed look and feel for Eco Farms’ organic and conventional avocado brands. Initially, we considered other brand names, but consumer testing illustrated the very positive and emphatic appeal of the name Eco Farms. We’ve developed a new logo, supported by the positioning line Green is Good™. A cheeky nod to good-for-you and good-tasting fruit, Green is Good conveys our desire to produce avocados in a manner that is good for the planet, too. One exciting example of this is a new Fair Trade Certified™ avocado program we’ll bring to market together in the weeks ahead.

CJ: Oppy markets and supplies many categories outside avocados. Do you predict this partnership will lead to growth across your entire portfolio?

KG: Eco Farms grows and packs a wide range of organic citrus, from Navels and Valencias to Tango tangerines and Blood oranges. While Oppy has been building a robust import citrus program with fruit from South Africa, Australia, Peru, Chile, Morocco, Japan, South Korea, China, and elsewhere over the years, we will now be able to complement these offerings with high-quality fruit during the California season.


Oppy is seeing green in every sense of the phrase—I could see the color bursting through each word Karin spoke. Which characteristics do I associate with the word now?

Strength.

Growth.

And progress.