Date: Feb 02, 2014
Magazine:
February 2014: The PACA Is Here to Help

John Jackson

CEO, ,Beachside Produce

Guadalupe, CA

Member Since 2003

Background: Beachside Produce LLC was formed a decade ago when the core growers of Apio Inc. bought the commodity business from that firm as it concentrated on the value added-sector.  After exploring other options, selling the company internally proved to be the best fit for all concerned.  At the time Apio CFO John Jackson was asked to become the CEO of the new company, and he took the position.

Commodity Centric: “Everything we do is commodity based,” said Jackson.  “Everything we sell is packed in the field.  Our main focus is to serve the interests of our growers and our customer partners.”

The company’s main product from day one was broccoli and that is still the top item.  But the growers also produce many other core vegetable items including cauliflower, iceberg lettuce, mixed lettuces, artichokes, celery, Brussels sprouts and green onions.  Other items on the product list include bok choy, kale, spinach, snow peas, parsley and cilantro.  Strawberries have also been added to the mix in recent years.  And recently Beachside has added celery sticks and hearts in a variety of packs.  But Jackson said those items are also packed in the field so they are an extension of the firm’s core competencies.

A Different Route to a Produce Career:  Though he grew up in Turlock in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, Jackson had no produce industry ties nor any thoughts that his career would eventually be agriculturally oriented.  After graduating from college with a degree in finance and accounting, he went to work for Coca Cola Enterprises and over the next several years worked for three or four different companies within the Coca Cola family.  For a good portion of his career, he was involved in evaluating franchises as they were being repurchased and then moving to the city and helping to establish a Coca Cola Enterprises business unit.  In fact he was splitting his time between St. Louis and Oklahoma City when a former business associate at Apio offered him the position of controller at Apio.

Jackson checked out the Central Coast, liked it a lot and took the job, not expecting to make produce his life long career.  He eventually was promoted to CFO and then was offered the CEO position at Beachside.

A Different Corporate Culture: After being offered the CEO position at Beachside, Jackson needed to make the conscience decision that agriculture was the career direction he wanted.  “It’s a very different culture than I was used to at Coke,” he said.  “When I first joined this industry, people talked about doing deals on the back of a napkin.  That was a very different control environment than what I was used to at Coca Cola.”

But Jackson said agriculture is a constantly changing business that he has grown to love.  He added that over time, the industry has moved to much more stringent contracting and operating controls.

Beachside’s Future: Currently the company grows the majority of its crops in the Santa Maria/Lompoc corridor but it also does business in Yuma, Imperial Valley and Mexico.  Jackson said the premium on farm land in the Santa Maria area, driven largely by the tremendous increase in strawberry acreage, has the potential of changing the vegetable mix from the area.  He said the escalating price of the land does impact the crops that can be supported.

Jackson expects broccoli to continue to be “a sizeable part of our business,” but he expects growth in other areas as well, as the firm continues to meet customers’ expectations.

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