See that slice of lemon in your sparkling water; that wedge alongside your fish or oysters? You’d never imagine going whole months without that essential, acidic accoutrement to your meals and drinks, and yet, it’s likely you’ve never considered how it is that you’re able to access lemons year-round, irrespective of where in the world you live, or what season it is.
In part, that’s thanks to Limoneira, a key player when it comes to supplying lemons across the globe. CEO and Director Harold Edwards explains that everything changed for the company when, in 2010, it implemented its ‘One World of Citrus’ business model.
“The idea was that by diversifying where we were producing and sourcing our citrus, we were able to eliminate the seasonality of citrus supplies and assure our customers all over the world,” Harold tells The CEO Magazine.
“We have leading market share positions in our citrus supply chains in South-East Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Southern Hemisphere, but by having supply capabilities throughout California and Arizona, we were also able to expand our capabilities from Mexico, Chile and Argentina that allowed us to build a global supply chain that means we can consistently serve all of our customers globally 365 days a year.”
Founded in 1893 in Ventura County, California, Limoneira (translating to ‘lemon lands’ in Portuguese) has both a rich history and rock-solid reputation within the industry. Harold believes that one thing that sets the business apart is how successful it is at “truly connecting” customers all the way back through the supply chain to its trees, and the trees of affiliated growers.
“That direct connection enhances traceability, food safety, quality and freshness, and gives our customers peace of mind that every day of the year, they’re going to be able to buy our high-quality, fully-traceable food-safe products,” he explains. “It makes them feel like they’ve gone out into their backyard and picked the citrus themselves. That’s very unique.”
“None of us come to work to fail, but we all can learn from the challenges that we face.”
When Harold was appointed Limoneira’s sixth CEO in 2003, he brought with him a wealth of experience spanning continents as well as industries, having lived and worked in Italy as the CFO of Ralston Purina and in the Philippines as Managing Director of Agribrands International’s Philippine operations. His biggest challenge upon joining the company was to “think about what we were going to do for the next 100 years to continue to make Limoneira relevant and successful”.
“We have an unparalleled excellent workforce, but we see significant opportunities in process re-engineering to streamline the operations and help them be much more efficient by taking advantage of new technologies in ERP systems that will not only be better for us from a cost, coordination and efficiency perspective, but also from a customer service perspective,” he says. “It will give us a much better opportunity to better serve our customers.”
While Harold is immensely proud of everything Limoneira is achieving, he is also a firm believer in not overselling its successes internally and instead, using all experiences (be they positive or negative) as learning opportunities. “There’s this whole idea of achieving operational excellence,” he says.
“But if you put too much pressure on, then you create an environment that I refer to as faking excellence, and that’s actually more damaging than a company that’s working on improving and continuous improvement. We are trying to strip away the faking of excellence by being very transparent and trying to eliminate the fear of failure. None of us come to work to fail, but we all can learn from the challenges that we face.”
“We’re a very asset-rich company, but no asset is greater than our workforce and our people. We invest in our people.”
This mindset and emphasis on an inclusive, compassionate and collaborative culture comes down to the fact that ultimately, Limoneira views its employees as its “most important asset”, Harold reveals. “We’re a very asset-rich company, but no asset is greater than our workforce and our people.
“We invest in our people. It’s our commitment to our environment. It’s our commitment to our community.” And from initiatives that provide company sponsored housing, health benefits and educational programs to Limoneira’s promise to “do business on a win–win basis” with all its suppliers, it’s clear that these are in no way empty words.
Harold believes that what makes Limoneira special, and is at the heart of its success, is the drive to “create a better environment” for the local communities in which it operates, because if you can help them “succeed and thrive, it provides a much better place for your employees to live”, he concludes.
“Then the whole thing feeds into itself in terms of not only their willingness but also their availability to support the agricultural growth of the company. It’s symbiotic and synergistic – it really does all tie together.”