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Built From Strong Stalk

Built From Strong Stalk

It takes multiple minds and hearts to answer the call that resonates through the soil, rooting into one vision...

As the Earth awakens most mornings in Salinas, California, there is an echo across the cool brightness that marks the start of the day. It is an echo of intention that sounds like the low hum of harvest tools; smells like water working toward roots; and looks like Pacific International Marketing’s dedicated team members walking rows of Brussels sprouts, infusing care, passion, and a grower-centric vision into the soil by their very presence.

These are the marks of the company’s abundant presence in the fresh produce industry, conveying a drive that knows no clock, limitation, or unachievable demand.

That grower-centric vision we speak of, which proves to be the guiding light at Pacific International Marketing, carries through each of the company’s organic and conventional vegetable programs, generating value, excellence, and differentiation in an evermore competitive fresh produce environment.

Listening for that echo of intention sparked at daybreak helps the company sustain itself. This echo is a deliberate part of what drives the Pacific International Marketing team to be stewards of the land. The lifeblood of the company’s success, as Sales Executive and Commodity Manager Stacey Claassen reveals, is also in the company’s ability to honor its vast family of grower partners, while excelling in, thriving with, establishing, and nurturing vital relationships.

“The foundation of our company started with a strong vision to bring the finest vegetables Mother Nature has to offer to market, including our Brussels sprouts,” Stacey reflects, simultaneously considering the ground beneath her feet and the distant horizon line. “We have offered Brussels sprouts for close to a decade. But, over the last few years, we have built up the program by incorporating new growers in multiple regions of California, as well as Mexico. By making key partnerships in Santa Maria, California, and Mexico, we can now offer Brussels sprouts as a year-round program rather than a seasonal offering.”

These prolific partnerships have also supported Pacific International Marketing’s ability to control its volume throughout the value chain and have allowed it to offer new SKUs, tailored programs, and defining advantages to the buy-side. To achieve such high standards, Pacific International Marketing sees its people as the driving force, elevating its own like a rising tide.

“As the company has evolved, we’ve added new team members—one being Co-Founder Dave Johnson’s son, Wils Johnson,” Stacey shares with me. “Using the groundwork laid before him, Wils has taken on a leadership role at Pacific International Marketing, continuing to build the Brussels sprouts program in our Santa Maria region, as well as creating new relationships with growers in Mexico. Our company culture thrives because of our growing partners and the strong, lasting relationships we have with each of them. This positively and directly impacts our ability to bring Brussels sprouts straight from the fields to the market.”

With an expansion of the Pacific International Marketing vision at hand, Wils’ ability to help build and execute leading-edge strategies is, without a doubt, in his DNA. But, it is also in his own established and nurtured vision of the company where he hopes to contribute and drive progress.

“Our company culture thrives because of our growing partners and the strong, lasting relationships we have with each of them. This positively and directly impacts our ability to bring Brussels sprouts straight from the fields to the market.”

Stacey Claassen, Sales Executive and Commodity Manager, Pacific International Marketing

“Our vision for Brussels sprouts going forward is three-fold. One, to focus on growing and harvesting best-in-class quality under our existing year-round program. Two, expand and diversify our acreage base to ensure steady supply. Three, foster strategic co-packing relationships to provide our customers with value-added items year-round,” Wils, General Manager and Sales Executive, reveals.

With multiple minds and hearts leading the charge and sounding the call of excellence, Pacific International Marketing has been able to address the challenges that are inherent in growth and expansion—while taking the risks head-on as a team with the tools to succeed.

“As demand for Brussels sprouts from our customers increased over the years, we ran into issues around scalability and quality control. This was primarily due to a lack of visibility into harvesting and growing. These issues drove us to seek those long-term partners in Santa Maria and Mexico. We cultivated these partnerships with a focus on transparency and control throughout the value chain, which has resulted in growth across volume, SKUs, and, most importantly, quality,” Stacey shares.

As the organization has expanded through its grower partnerships, the company built out its SKUs and increased its acreage. This allowed Pacific International Marketing to approach some of its largest customers with year-round Brussels sprouts volume and stalk volume for the holidays.

“Overall, Brussels sprouts add one more item to our lineup, meaning we’re bettering our program to provide a well-rounded commodity list to fit our customers’ needs,” Stacey says, noting the expanse the program is taking on.

With operations straddling the major U.S. West Coast distribution channels, Pacific International Marketing has primed its customers to be an extension of its own growth as well. Currently, the company has four cooling and consolidation facilities in California and Arizona to support its buy-side partners’ increasing needs for a one-stop shop, consolidated loading solutions, and quality that differentiates them.

For the company, quality is not just a marketing term or language choice used across its labels. It is a lens through which the team conducts each step of its organization from the field to the sales desk to the fresh produce department.

“We rely on our quality and production teams to put up the best pack for our customers. Our grower partners have implemented industry best practices to ensure that high-quality product carries our vision to our partners and to the consumers’ kitchens,” Stacey says.

Pacific International Marketing is focusing on offering additional field packs and pre-washed ready-to-eat SKUs as well as further growing the Brussels sprouts destinations of its customers as quality echoes past the supply chain and into its partners’ vision. Currently, the company is designing a field-pack cut and rinsed 2 lb bagged item for customers focused on freshness and reducing carbon footprint and food miles.

“Our vision for Brussels sprouts going forward is three-fold. One, to focus on growing and harvesting best-in-class quality under our existing year-round program. Two, expand and diversify our acreage base to ensure steady supply. Three, foster strategic co-packing relationships to provide our customers with value-added items year-round.”

Wils Johnson, General Manager and Sales Executive, Pacific International Marketing

As the Brussels sprouts program makes headway across the operation’s retail programs, it has also ramped up in the foodservice sector during a time when diners are ready to dive back into the dining scene. This initiative and investment are helping take the company’s value proposition skyward.

And, the team’s depth of dedication and expertise have played a huge part in differentiating this space.

Pacific International Marketing understands that in every foodservice segment, consistency of both supply and quality are the key drivers in a successful partnership. This incredible ability to exceed foodservice customers’ expectations starts at the heart of the operation: with the company’s committed grower base and vast growing areas. And, it is not just about retaining relationships. Exceeding expectations is the means by which the company grows in product excellence, unparalleled service, and customer and consumer loyalty.

These elements are a part of each team member’s individual vision and deep sense of ownership. The Pacific International Marketing commitment is part of that reverberating echo that rises from the team each day and its application of these values in foodservice is not only natural but also intentional, from growing practices to product innovation.

The company currently offers a standard iced/iceless 25 lb pack and 18 lb RPCs for its foodservice customers. This fall, Pacific International Marketing will also offer full and half Brussels sprout stalks just in time for the holiday push. These product choices and launches reflect the company’s unwavering commitment to listen to what its partners need and not only support them today but help them create solutions for the future. Such an ability to be flexible in a program as expansive and established as this one is why customers keep coming back and why Pacific continues to grow.

And what a beautiful gravity Pacific International Marketing has. Stacey was drawn to the team for just these reasons, which are only a handful of the many factors why she is so dedicated to the people and the program.

“When I joined the company 12 years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a previous co-worker who has since retired. I was also going through a change in my personal life, and it brought me into the Santa Maria office when I was ready to pour myself into my career,” Stacey tells me. “We wake up early in this industry, and some days it is really important to know what gets you up and keeps you going. Family is very important to me. I grew up in an agricultural family, which led me to work in this industry. I love being part of the team and look forward to many more years here. Having grown from a Sales Assistant to managing the Brussels sprouts program as a Commodity Manager as well as doing sales has been one of the gifts of this industry and this company.”

This overwhelming sense of gratitude, of connectedness to the land, the work, and, ultimately, to each other—these are the resounding reflections and reverberations of a company past the brink of becoming but instead arriving. To sit in such light, whether break of day or golden hour, is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

And in this case, it is an echo.