Issue Winter 12
Modern consumers don’t really think much about fresh produce going bad unless it does so in their refrigerators. But there are many steps along the way from the farm to the plate, and Dominion Citrus has spent a long time working to perfect the process of getting fresh produce from the ground all the way to the consumer.
“As a 76-year-old company, we’ve been involved in wholesaling, transport, packaging and all of the logistics for a long time, and that created a collective knowledge base in the company,” says President and CEO Jason Fielden. “We’ve got good people, and quite a few long-tenured people, who have long-standing relationships with our partners and customers.”
A major strength of Dominion Citrus is its diversification and integrated suite of services for fresh produce. The organization’s services include inspections, reporting, insurance, procurement, international logistics, ripening, sorting and grading, packaging and re-packing, distribution and transportation.
The company includes several distinct business units. Dominion Citrus Distribution is the largest part of the Dominion Citrus portfolio. It has been in operation since 1935. Another major piece of the puzzle is Dominion Farm Produce, which has been operating since 1956.
Country Fresh Packaging in Toronto is the third link in the chain for Dominion. It has been offering services such as grading, bagging, color sorting, packaging and storage to retail and food service clients since 1976. The final two business units are Meschino Banana Company and Les Aliments Dominion Citrus Limitee. Meschino, based in Toronto, has been in business since 1920. Les Aliments Dominion Citrus Limitee is a Quebec City-based fresh produce distributor.
Fielden says the company has always been good at building relationships and providing quality services. Where the company is working to improve is in developing a culture that is innovative, entrepreneurial and focused on growth.
“We need to go to customers with new ideas that help them consolidate their supply chains,” Fielden says. “If we can think of ways to consolidate the supply chain for them, that will bode well for our ability to attract and retain more business. We need to constantly raise that bar and be the people that are the most obsessive about providing good service.”
Dominion Citrus also positions itself in the market by focusing on higher-end product. Fielden says some companies sell second-tier product and make money doing it, but that isn’t what Dominion is all about.
Intent on Innovation
Part of the way the company has gone about enhancing that spirit of innovation is by bringing people into the company with little background in this specific sector of the food industry. Maybe they’ve worked in meat or canned goods instead of fresh produce. By actively trying to bring in talent with diverse backgrounds and providing internal and external training, the company believes it is challenging people to change their viewpoints and embrace a culture where everyone feels they can express their ideas.
Geographically, Dominion is working to expand its presence outside of Ontario and Quebec and into the Western and Atlantic Canadian markets. It is also taking steps to better integrate its business units.
With plenty of low-hanging fruits (and vegetables) to reach for, Dominion Citrus looks like it has plenty of reason to expect a bountiful harvest. Fielden believes Dominion can seize opportunities by focusing on controlled growth through innovation, maintaining a competitive cost structure and building on strong relationships with customers and suppliers. In a fiercely competitive industry, Fielden is confident that Dominion Citrus can succeed by taking a slow and steady approach.