Robinson Fresh’s director of global sourcing for the Asia-Pacific region, Ray Griffin, discusses the company’s growing presence in the Far East.
CH Robinson launched Robinson Fresh in 2014 as a subsidiary. What was the purpose behind this new venture?
Ray Griffin: Robinson Fresh’s launch in 2014 was a rebranding of the fresh produce side of CH Robinson, previously known as CH Robinson Sourcing. Following the acquisition of FoodSource in 2005, CH Robinson went on to make several other acquisitions in the sourcing division, including Rosemont Farms and Timco. To clearly articulate our size, scope, and the value we bring to the fresh food industry, it was time to put all of our banners and labels under one identity. Robinson Fresh is much larger than the industry knows in direct product supply and the vast array of value added services we offer. CH Robinson started in 1905, connecting growers to customers. And we still do the same today, with much more sophistication.
In June of this year, you were named director of global sourcing for the Asia-Pacific region. Are you still involved in domestic procurement and supply of fresh produce or are you now focused entirely on the international sector for Robinson Fresh?
RG: I have two key areas of responsibility at this time: I oversee our Asia-Pacific fresh produce business development team, and I’m driving our enterprise organic produce strategy. Like international growth, our expertise lends its strengths to building out our organic supply base to meet the ever-increasing demands for organic fruits and vegetables. We excel in complex fresh supply chain management, at home and abroad.
Green Giant Fresh and Welch's are globally recognised brands exclusive to Robinson Fresh for produce marketing. What categories are packed under these labels and of these, which are exported to the Asia-Pacific region?
RG: Robinson Fresh exclusively supplies dry vegetables, avocados, and asparagus under the Green Giant Fresh label. We are seeing strong demand in Asia for Green Giant Fresh avocados, and demand for asparagus continues to grow internationally. Welch’s branded grapes are in high demand in the Asia-Pacific region. We are just beginning to ship from California, but we are already experiencing solid demand for this highly recognised brand. Welch’s branded berries are also in good demand in the countries in which US berries are permitted.
Which markets in the Asia-Pacific region hold the most promise for sales and distribution by Robinson Fresh and why? What fresh categories have the most upside for expanded sales, in your opinion?
RG: We are seeing promise in multiple areas in the Asia-Pacific region. From South Korea to Shanghai, Hong Kong to counties in South East Asia, our products, brands, and services are making a strong impact. With the increasing popularity of avocados in Asia, along with grapes, apples, kiwifruit, and citrus, we are continuing to add commodities to the list of items our customers demand. With our size and scope —and having Robinson Fresh staff in most major growing areas — we can facilitate full-service solutions to meet our customers’ needs.
Is Robinson Fresh sourcing fresh produce counter-seasonally under the Welch's and Green Giant Fresh brands to service its customers year-round? If so, from where and what categories are involved?
RG: We continually work on our supply line to facilitate our retail-branded programmes. We are a global company, growing our supply base in more countries today than we have in our 111 year history. We realise the importance of continual supply for the retailers we work with; we understand their businesses. Keeping our supply lines consistent as demand for our products rise is a never-ending task but one that Robinson Fresh is up for.
CH Robinson has offices across the Far East as well as in India. Is Robinson Fresh able to utilise the services of its sister company's branches in various markets to better serve its Asia-Pacific customer base?
RG: Yes. Our global forwarding offices across the Far East constantly get inquiries from clients about how they can engage with Robinson Fresh. We are working strategically with our global leadership teams to expand our product offerings to include Robinson Fresh’s portfolio of products and services to our global clients.
Will representatives from Robinson Fresh be attending Asia Fruit Logistica this year? If so, do you see the Hong Kong trade fair as an effective platform for growing Robinson Fresh's international business?
RG: Yes, we are excited to participate in this year’s Asia Fruit Logistica. This is a great opportunity to connect with our customers, current and future, and meet with our global suppliers. This is one of the highlight events of the year, with full days of comprehensive meetings to build upon existing relationships and cultivate new ones.