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Asia drives Vanguard’s new growth plan

EXCLUSIVE: Vanguard chief executive Craig Stauffer speaks to Asiafruit as he unveils US$250m of private equity investment into future expansion

Asia drives Vanguard’s new growth plan

Vanguard is set to become 'a global vertically-integrated' business, says CEO Craig Stauffer

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Taking advantage of the growth in demand for fresh fruits and vegetables in Asia is one of the key drivers behind a major new investment into one of the region’s most active fresh produce marketing and sales businesses.

Some US$250m has been earmarked for the strategic acquisition of fresh produce and other complimentary businesses around the world as part of the new growth plan for Vanguard International, the US fresh fruit and vegetable marketing and sales company owned and managed by Craig Stauffer and Guy Kisling.

Stauffer announced yesterday the creation of The Vanguard International Group, a newly-formed company that combines Vanguard International, the US$150m fresh produce marketing and sales company he co-founded with Guy Kisling in 1991, with a New York-based investment fund focused on agriculture called Blue Road Capital. The Vanguard International Group will own Vanguard International and all future acquisitions.

“These are very exciting times,” said Stauffer, speaking exclusively to Asiafruit in advance of the announcement from his offices close to Seattle in Washington State. Blue Road is an independent private equity firm focused on the acquisition and development of agricultural-focused businesses. “Vanguard International is now poised for major expansion as we grow our business organically and through strategic acquisitions in the supply chain with the principal aim of meeting future demand for fresh fruits and vegetables in Asia and the Middle East.”

Vanguard International has been marketing and selling fresh fruits and vegetables in Asia and the Middle East for 25 years, operating offices in China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Indonesia, as well as in Chile, South Africa, and Europe. Blue Road’s investment in the company to create The Vanguard International Group heralds a new and significant change of emphasis for the company.

“Blue Road will enable Vanguard to continue to grow its global business and to develop a global vertically-integrated fresh fruit and vegetable organisation, from farm to customer,” explained Stauffer. “Furthermore, we expect to close on our first production acquisitions in the near future.”

Blue Road partner, John Duryea, said, “We are excited to be investing with a company like Vanguard. They have earned a terrific reputation serving growers and customers throughout their supply chain and, with our capital investment and the company’s vertical integration, expect to enhance these relationships.”

Asiafruit understands that Vanguard is already looking at acquisitions of fresh fruit and vegetable production operations in Peru and Chile, Latin America’s two fastest-growing suppliers of fresh fruits and vegetables to Asia, as well as potential acquisitions in North America and other areas around the world.

“It’s important that we secure the best sources of fresh fruits and vegetables for our global customer base,” Stauffer told Asiafruit. “To date Vanguard has done this by developing, nurturing, and growing long-term mutually-beneficial relationships with its long established grower/suppliers.  Our new structure is going to allow us to work even more closely and continue to develop these relationships in new and exciting ways, and we’re also going to invest in our own production so that we can guarantee the finest fresh fruits and vegetables for our customers around the world.” 

“We are not looking to reduce the amount of business we do with any of our current suppliers, in fact, we intend to do even more business with them,” Stauffer added.

Vanguard’s tie-up with Blue Road is the culmination of months of intense activity for Stauffer, Kisling, and the rest of its senior management team. Crucially, Stauffer and Kisling are heading up the new group as chief executive officer and chief financial officer respectively, the same roles each of them has held since they set up Vanguard together more than 20 years ago.

In addition, Kisling will also take on the newly created chief analytics officer position.  “Vanguard has developed an awesome business platform on which to build a vertically integrated supply solution to service our growers and supply our customers with quality-assured fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world,” explained Kisling. “The entire Vanguard Team is very excited about our expansion plans.”

“Things are going to get even busier in the coming year as we grow the group,” said Stauffer. “The Vanguard International Group has some interesting expansion plans and you’re going to see more activity from us.”

“This is a very exciting time for us as we join together with Blue Road to form the Vanguard International Group,” said Tim Clarke, Vanguard’s chief operating officer. “With Vanguard International, Inc. as the spring board, we are exceptionally well positioned for immediate growth that will allow us to improve our supply capabilities for our customers globally, and enhance our abilities to supply the right fruit at the right time through our existing supply and service relationships.”  

”Since 1991, we have focused on sourcing and delivering quality fresh fruits and vegetables, while also developing state of the art systems and business processes to provide best-in-class service to our customers, growers, and business partners in a leading edge manner,” said Vanguard’s vice president of finance and operations, Keri Falkner. “Blue Road’s investment is the next step in ensuring that we continue to deliver unparalleled products and services to our partners around the world.”


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