by Tim Linden
AR-Cal Distributing in Arvin, CA, has taken over as the exclusive North American sales agent for the Maui Gold pineapple, which is now being grown and packed by the Haliimaile Pineapple Co. Ltd. in Halliimaile, HI.
AR-Cal is the marketing and distribution arm of Trino Packing & Cold Storage Inc., which is also headquartered in Arvin and owned by longtime produce industry veteran John Trino.
Mr. Trino said that he has long had an affinity for Hawaii and became well acquainted with the Maui Gold pineapple when it was being marketed by the Maui Land & Pineapple Co.
That company, which owns and operates resort properties and golf courses in addition to its agricultural division, has had well-publicized financial issues during the past couple of years.
Maui Land & Pineapple Co. has sold off several golf courses and also sold the rights to the “Maui Gold” brand name.
Mr. Trino said that backers of the new pineapple company have pumped a good deal of money into the operation over the past year and have secured significant land for production.
Since Jan. 1, Haliimaile has been shoring up the sales of pineapples in Hawaii and has been mostly using Calavo for its mainland sales. Mr. Trino has been consulting for the firm on an informal basis since 2009 while it was under development, and recently agreed to the exclusive marketing agreement.
“I am basically going to be acting as a broker and a sales agent,” he said. “Haliimaile will do billing and invoicing.”
Mr. Trino said that the key to successful sales of the Maui Gold pineapple on the mainland is to limit supplies to the extent that there is demand.
“I told them to build up their sales in Hawaii and to grow slowly in North America,” Mr. Trino said. “You cannot flood the market. No longer will there be consignment sales. Everything will be an f.o.b. sale.”
AR-Cal’s agreement was slated to begin officially Oct. 1, but on Sept. 29, when Mr. Trino spoke with The Produce News, he said, “We have cans on the water and are taking orders.”
He said that the f.o.b. price Long Beach, CA, or Seattle, which are the two ports to which the product is being shipped and unloaded via ocean freighter, was $11.50 on that day.
“There has been about a five- or six-week gap in supplies, which has made for a good transition,” he added.
Although the Maui Gold has typically enjoyed better sales on the West Coast because of its proximity to Hawaii, Mr. Trino said that the company is selling nationwide and will air freight to the East Coast when appropriate.
But he added that Mexican pineapples are typically $2-$4 cheaper and enjoy a freight rate advantage to the East Coast, so the demand is limited.
“But it is the best-tasting pineapple there is,” he stated.
Handling sales of the product for AR-Cal is Harold Stein, another longtime produce sales veteran.
The Produce News AR-Cal inks Maui Gold deal
Ar-Cal Distributing has taken over the mainland marketing of Hawaii-grown Maui Gold pineapples.
Ar-Cal, a division of Arvin, Calif.-based Trino Packing and Cold Storage, inked a deal with HaliiMaile, Hawaii-based HaliiMaile Pineapple Co. Ltd. to be the North American sales agent for Maui Golds, which HaliiMaile has exclusive rights to, said John Trino, Ar-Cal’s president.
Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc. had been the mainland marketer for Maui Golds when the variety was owned by Makawao, Hawaii-based Maui Land & Pineapple Inc.
HaliiMaile, which became the exclusive marketer of Maui Golds effective Jan. 1, has cut production of Maui Golds from 3,000 to 4,000 acres to 650 acres, Trino said.
Rudy Balala, HaliiMaile’s vice president, said the company is focusing its marketing efforts on the mainland on high-end customers. He said the company can’t compete with pineapples from other countries on price.
“We know we have a superior product,” he said. “Our fruit tastes really good, and we’ve heard a lot of positive comments about it on the mainland.”
HaliiMaile expects to ship about 3,000 to 4,000 cases a week to the mainland U.S., Balala said.