John Bauer has had a long career background in the food business, so much so that in 2011, he was appointed to the U.S. Agricultural Advisory Committee for the benefit of his expertise. As global trade in agricultural products has increased, keeping up with the nature of the industry today takes a certain set of skills. These are also skills that Bauer has been honing over the last 34 years.
“We had boom times and had some recessions, but the situation now is all together different,” says Bauer, president and CEO of Basic Food International Inc., an established, Fort Lauderdale-based supplier of canned, frozen and packaged food products worldwide.
As import and export figures rise, staying competitive in the industry has become increasingly about a company’s capacity to operate effectively on a global scale.
“We have to learn and we have to really be ahead of the curve as much as possible in order to remain a factor in our business,” Bauer says.
Smart Business spoke with Bauer about the keys to success in the agriculture industry.
In the future, it’s going to be survival of the fittest in our business and in any business. You’ve got to be able to withstand, to compete and to develop.
But globalization is a definite plus. We have open borders and every country practically has open borders. There are fewer restrictions.
The emerging markets, but also countries in Latin America, are going to be great countries and great markets.
It’s one world. It’s like one country. We’re in touch any minute of the day with whoever we want to be in touch with in any part of the world. It’s an unbelievable situation. I talk at night to my suppliers in Vietnam and in China, and early in the morning I talk to buyers in Europe or in the Middle East or South America.
Form strategic alliances.
The business requires strength. We’ve been approached and we are approaching other firms similarly situated as we are for strategic alliances, and we work together and cooperate. There’s no use competing with one another. You have an affluence of competitors at this time. Some of them will disappear naturally and others will be forming groups with others and will become bigger and larger and more effective.
We are looking for potential partners that we can either acquire or work with. It will cut down the expenses and the competition.
Everything is going at a very fast speed. Everything is speeded up and the volume has increased accordingly.
We have locations in Fort Lauderdale and Miami and in Guatemala, so altogether we have about 50 major employees and we are constantly in touch with a system of communications. The system uses the Internet, talking on Skype, conferences.
You have to provide a lot of guidance. You have to instill in them a lot of confidence. You have to instill in them the desire to learn and to get ahead and to be very thorough in everything you do — to think of all the possible danger points where you may have a problem.
It all requires a tremendous attention to detail, our business in particular, because we have shipments where one container of merchandise is $100,000 or more.
You’ve got to be aware of what the new regulations are, labeling regulations, regulations in countries to which you ship, and you’ve got to familiarize yourself on the importance of food products and imports. You’ve got to know what the requirements of USFDA are. Whatever we buy for the United States, we go and inspect the plants. We make a very thorough analysis of their products and their raw materials so as to assure that we are getting product that is produced and shipped in accordance with the standards that we require, both federal, state and for ourselves.
It’s gotten a little bit more complicated, because we’ve got a lot more products to deal with. We’ve got a lot more regulation to deal with and we have a lot more uncertainty to deal with, especially from the point of view of sanitary controls and regulations pertaining to food processing, contents and ingredients. So it has evolved.
HOW TO REACH: Basic Food International Inc., (954) 467-1700 or www.basicfood.com