Juan_Ibarra

President & CEO
Marengo Foods Company LLC: Dallas, TX

Years in Produce:

Age: 37

Personal Information:

Married; Four children

Hobbies: Baseball; woodworking; music

Motto in life: Luck is no good if you aren’t ready for it.

Work History: Ibarra has successfully created a company of three grower partners, building a business over the past eight years that has grown in volume, reputation and reliability. He started in the produce industry in 2005 in Nogales, AZ, with grower-shippers Tricar Sales and Franks Distributing. He worked on developing a project outlining new distribution routes through Texas in the wintertime together with grower Arturo Paredes. Soon after, growers Jose Maria Pablos and Sergio Esquer joined the project that became Marengo Foods in 2009. After battling major weather issues in 2010 and 2011, and depressed markets in the years since, the company has grown from a three-man team, 450-load, winter-only grower/shipper into a company employing more than 50 people, distributing more than 4,500 loads a year and with a solid year-round program from owned and operated farms. Under Ibarra’s leadership, the company has become a leading grower/ shipper in the port of McAllen, TX, where it has invested heavily in two refrigerated distribution centers, as well as its team of people.

Questions & Answers:

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

Setbacks are great learning experiences, and I wish I had known there are always many ways to achieve a successful outcome – so if your way is not working, try another one.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?

The dynamic environment of the industry. What is a good deal today, tomorrow may be an awful deal.

Q: How did you begin working in produce?

My family has been involved in the growing side of the industry for four generations. My great grandfather was one of the men who plotted out the irrigation canals in the Culiacan Valley and I always had a liking for the industry, but found a greater challenge selling and distributing the final product.

Q: What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of in your career?

Founding Marengo Foods and having built the forward-thinking management team that is in place today. The investments in infrastructure have been a great learning experience for me and a great asset and competitive advantage for our company.

Q: What industry improvements would you like to see?

I would like to see the industry regulators move away from grading or favoring product on anything other than its real value (quality, cost, food safety and social responsibility). Steering preference, or regulating the industry in any other direction than the merits of the product, is detrimental to consumers and the industry in the long term. It prevents us from becoming more competitive, which is the essence of business.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?

Don’t get frustrated too quickly. This industry changes constantly and you will get your chance if you are ready.

Q: What do you think the industry can do to promote more produce consumption?

The industry can work on making product more readily available to consumers in many ways. I think consumer education is definitely important, but I also think the industry can help promote consumption based on seasonality, when product can be sold at much cheaper prices and quality is much better in terms of crop yields. Sometimes it’s sad to see the lack of interest in doing promotions at the retail level focused on seasonality because so much product ends up being disposed.