2024 40 Under Forty Winner: Travis Catalani

Vice President Sales
B. Catalani Inc.
San Antonio, TX

Age: 38
Hometown: San Antonio, TX
Hobbies: Fly fishing, Hunting, Golf, Jiu jitsu
Family/Community: Married, 3 children, Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Motto in life: “Discipline equals freedom.” — Jocko Willink

As a fourth-generation produce family member, Catalani was taken by his grandfather on the weekends to work at the produce terminal when he was only 12. He knew at that young age he wanted it to be his career. After playing baseball and graduating from Abilene Christian University in 2009, he returned to start as a full-time employee at B. Catalani. He worked on the docks, pulling orders, loading trucks, and driving local routes for three years. When the company hit a major slowdown due to the loss of several large customers, Catalani stepped up to a sales position. From his building blocks of sales from single-location mom-and-pop restaurants to broadliners to retail-program style business, the company was able to right the ship within two years.

While he still focuses on sales, he also works on the buy side with several commodities and grower relationships for contracts. In 2021, he was selected to the IFPA Leadership Class 26. He also serves on the Texas International Produce Association board, the IFPA Wholesale Distributor board, and the Texas Department of Agriculture produce recovery fund board as chairman.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?

I saw my grandfather and dad work hard every day of their lives. From a very young age, I would beg my mom to take me to the produce terminal, so I could ride the forklift with my dad or sit in the “big trucks.” I believe I was originally attracted by the sense of pride in the generations before me. As a finance major, I did a prestigious internship one summer that resulted in a strong career opportunity. Even though there was more money offered to me after I graduated, I knew my heart was elsewhere. I missed the fast-paced day, so I chose to turn it down and begin my employment at B. Catalani.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?

Family business is extremely difficult. I wish I knew the strains it would cause on relationships with my family members. We work hard to make sure that we maintain a healthy balance, but it is difficult for me to separate the family aspect of the business and the expectations I have of those that I work with.

Q: What is the one thing in your business that you are most passionate about?

I truly love the sales side of the business. I enjoy the relationships developed over the years of doing business with a single customer.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?

I always joke that my friends don’t know how to talk to me about what I do. The average consumer has no idea the layers and intricacies involved with getting a perishable commodity from the field, to the packing shed, on a truck, transported to Texas, and then out to the consumer as fast as possible. Then build into that food safety, plus quality/inventory control, plus markets.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?

I have seen a massive amount of consolidation throughout the entire supply chain. There has not only been consolidation as distributors are getting bought out, but there has also been consolidation among retailers and growers. As retailers are constantly pushing to go more “direct,” it is creating the urgency to continually search for the areas where we can add value in the supply chain.