In 1992, when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida with massive force, citrus businesses suffered. Limeco, an established lime packer, struggled for years to recover and in 2001 sold the business to a locally known grower, Alcides Acosta. Out of respect for the previous owners, and the thirty years they dedicated to the citrus industry, Acosta renamed the company New Limeco, LLC. Acosta brought in a partner, Eddie Caram, who brought his knowledge and passion for the produce industry as well as a vision to improve packing. Now the general manager, Caram discusses with Hispanic Executive his strategy for growth, why the company’s exotic fruits from Latin America have become essential food staples despite the down economy, and New Limeco’s success tracking produce from the tropics to the table
I grew up in the produce business. I was born in Cuba; my father brought us to the US when I was a young boy. He started his own business, buying backyard mangos and avocados and selling them in the Miami market. By the time I was eight years old, I’d come with him, especially in the summertime, to pick and pack the produce. By the time I was twelve, he’d leave me there to sell, pack, and distribute the produce. His work ethic was impeccable—I picked up on that and his passion for the business.
My father did business with larger growers so I had many mentors, including Mr. Acosta. I’ve had relationships with some growers for thirty years or more. We’ve never had a dispute because these relationships have been built on trust, which I believe has opened so many doors for me. I appreciate the total trust Mr. Acosta put into me.
When I started at New Limeco in 2001, we began from scratch. I relied on my contacts and my experience; we soon started importing mangos, papayas, and Latin vegetables. Since becoming general manager in 2009, I’ve taken on the challenge of focusing on food safety and reconstructing the company.
We are the leaders in food safety in South Florida when it comes to Florida avocados. My main focus has been our ability to trace the avocados from field to fork. We are the only grower, packer, and shipper in Florida that has done that and we’ve been getting buyers’—especially chain-stores buyers’—attention. And, slowly but surely, we’ve grown in other areas like being one of the leading importers of large, red papayas as well as one of the largest tropical packing houses and shippers down here in South Florida.
I’ve been looking at what I’m doing on an everyday basis and I make every decision carefully. My decisions impact the local community and the people that rely on their jobs here at New Limeco. We don’t grow potatoes, onions, or peppers—things that you put on your table nearly every day. We grow tropical commodities which sometimes, in an economy like we’ve experienced, the consumer often weighs whether they are going to pick up an avocado or papaya for their salad or if they’ll bring home another bag of potatoes to feed the family. Because of this, New Limeco takes every opportunity to promote the health benefits of avocados and tropical fruits.
My plan is to continue growing, adding commodities, and doing what is right for the grower, buyer, and consumer. I think the company has a lot more to offer and we have to keep looking forward for any changes, trends, or challenges ahead. One thing we are considering is opening a receiving house in the Northeast to make it more feasible to supply the region with produce because fuel costs have gone up so high.
I wake up every day loving what I do. I love the challenges, the opportunities, and the people I’ve met along the way. Working with produce, and knowing that we feed a lot of people is very gratifying. I’ve always seen myself running a company like this and I’m 100 percent satisfied [about] where I’ve taken myself.