Today’s conscious consumers are seeking more than just flavorful fruit and veggies as they peruse the produce aisle. They’re also mindful of the story behind these products. They want reassurance that what they’re buying is safe and clean and was not produced at the expense of workers’ — or the planet’s — well-being.
Fortunately for those consumers, there’s Divine Flavor, an Arizona-based produce company that ticks all of the boxes, proudly prioritizing social and environmental responsibility and bucking big-agribusiness trends that emphasize yield and shelf-life before all else. The Mexican family-run and grower-owned company is an innovative fair-trade business that sticks staunchly to the six pillars of its company strategy — quality, food safety, social responsibility, traceability, organics and sustainability — while producing famously flavor-packed table grapes, snack tomatoes, mini-peppers and more.
“[It’s] not only owned by family, but we like to create a structure and an environment in our company that feels as a family,” said Carlos Bon, Divine Flavor’s Sales Manager. “We provide an exceptional product, and it’s not because our soil is better or our water is better. It’s because our workers are doing a better job for us because they’re being treated right.”
Divine Flavor’s motto, “Better Food for a Better World,” isn’t just a marketing tagline. From its focus on organic produce to its policy of providing above-industry-average pay and benefits to employees (from field workers to corporate staff), the company puts its values into practice and exercises fairer, safer and more sustainable growing and distribution. Nonetheless, Divine Flavor continues to expand as a profitable business.
Formed in 2006, the company grew out of Grupo Alta, a table grape farm founded in 1989 by Bon’s grandfather, father, and uncle on a 25-acre vineyard in Sonora, Mexico. Grupo Alta became one of Mexico’s largest agricultural companies and a pioneer in socially and environmentally responsible agribusiness. It formed the Alta Foundation in 1995 to provide better working conditions for its employees.
“That’s the reason we became the first fair-trade [certified] company in Mexico,” Bon recalled. “Because they came in with the standards and we were already in compliance.”
Bon’s father and uncle continued their people-first traditions upon founding Divine Flavor, providing comprehensive healthcare to all employees, nutritious food in company cafeterias, and scholarship programs. Headquartered in the small border town of Nogales, Ariz., it’s the largest importer of Mexican table grapes in the U.S., which it distributes nationwide to all major food retailers, including many in California. But even as it has rapidly scaled up, Divine Flavor has retained Grupo Alta’s signature passion for sustainability.
“We don’t see it as a certification; we don’t see it as a requirement; we see it as a culture,” Bon said.
Divine Flavor treats its own water, uses renewable energy at its ranches, and is exploring rootstocks that require less water. The company has increasingly focused on organic produce, even creating its own compost plant. Today, more than two-thirds of Divine Flavor’s acreage is organic.
Because Divine Flavor grows and distributes all its own produce, they know precisely where every bag or box originated. So if it’s labeled “organic”, Divine Flavor can be certain that it came from 100% organic fields. Such rare transparency and traceability also assures consumers that all Divine Flavor produce is utterly safe.
“Our standards on food safety are well above any standards set by the USDA [or] FDA,” Bon said. “When you get a certification you have to achieve a minimum percentage of compliance … We’re not looking to get certified — we’re looking to get 100 [percent].”
Divine Flavor’s food scientists and research-and-development experts have created iconic household staples such as cotton candy-flavored grapes and seedless, finger-shaped berries. These provide healthy alternatives to processed sugary treats without sacrificing flavor, while Divine Flavor’s sweet Magnifico grape tomatoes and Tribelli mini-peppers allow for further guilt-free snacking.
“Right now our focus is on having our successful ‘candy’ line of table grapes [available] for a longer period of time, and preferably year-round,” Bon said. “We are very close to achieving that.”
Shoppers are getting far more than unrivalled taste and quality when they reach for the Divine Flavor label. They’re also buying peace of mind that the company’s products are grown and harvested responsibly, safely, and with constant respect for human dignity.
“It’s not a bunch of grapes and it’s not a bag of mini-peppers,” Bon concluded. “What you’re buying into is a company that supports the human race, and by that I mean: supports its workers and also takes care of the environment.”
—Paul Rogers for Divine Flavor