Divine Flavor, a premier organic producer of grapes, tomatoes, and peppers, among other crops, began its journey in 1989 when three growers in Sonora, Mexico, planted their first 10 acres of table grapes.
Initially, the trio—Don Enrique Camou, Carlos Bon Sr., and Alan Aguierre—farmed under Viñedos Alta but soon shifted to Grupo Alta, which is still the name representing its Mexico production company, while Divine Flavor serves as the Nogales, AZ-based distributing branch of the organization.
Within its first decade, the company was pioneering the sustainable agriculture movement with organic acreage and the establishment of the nonprofit Alta Foundation to provide better working conditions for all its workers, including high-quality living quarters and facilities, healthcare services, and personal development opportunities.
“Organics has always been part of our DNA,” said Quality Assurance and Public Relations Coordinator Michael DuPuis. “We are the largest producer of organic table grapes in Mexico. And we relish our role to have the opportunity to be an advocate for organic production. Organics means a lot to us.”
Michael DuPuis, Quality Assurance and Public Relations Coordinator, Divine Flavor
Divine Flavor and Grupo Alta, he said, take immense pride in producing a top-quality organic pack that is every bit as good as a conventional pack.
“Organics has always been part of our DNA. … And we relish our role to have the opportunity to be an advocate for organic production. Organics means a lot to us.” - Michael DuPuis
“We do it very well, and we do it 365 days a year,” DuPuis said. “At the farm level, organic integrity is not easy to maintain, but we take pride in doing so.”
Carlos Bon, vice president of sales and the son of one of the company’s founders, said the farming operation is always reviewing how it can improve its cultural operations. “We are always looking at new products and new seed trials. There is always room to improve,” he said, but added that the company has come close to perfecting the art of delivering premium organic grapes every single day of its season. “We have kicked it up a notch.”
Carlos Bon, Vice President of Sales, Divine Flavor
DuPuis said the cost of growing organic crops is still significantly higher than conventional, and the premium price that they typically receive is justified. He made his point by singling out labor. “You need more labor to work an organic crop,” he said. “There is more manual labor involved, and you need more supervision.”
“We do it very well, and we do it 365 days a year. At the farm level, organic integrity is not easy to maintain, but we take pride in doing so.” - Michael DuPuis
Bon added that while organic yields on a per-hectare basis have increased tremendously over the years, they are still less than conventional yields. Lower yields combined with higher inputs result in higher per-carton costs.
While Divine Flavor has ample experience with organic table grapes coming from Grupo Alta, the company has built additional organic programs with other items at its sister company, Viva Organica, and Hortifresh, Divine’s premier organic bell pepper producer based out of Sinaloa.
This summer, for example, Hortifresh has added a new organic pepper program in Central Mexico, marking its first-ever year-round production of organic bell peppers.
Labor is an especially important component to everything that the Divine Flavor brand represents, and the company is proud of the relationships it has cultivated with the worker community. In 1995, the Alta Foundation was formed and began dedicating dollars to creating good social and human development programs for those workers and their families.
“We are always looking at new products and new seed trials. There is always room to improve.” - Carlos Bon
The programs continue to grow with the inclusion of Fair Trade certification. Divine Flavor initially became Fair Trade certified in 2009 so its workers have developed more than a dozen years of programs with those Fair Trade dollars—generating more than $7.8 million to go along with the Alta Foundation initiatives.
Divine Flavor will be exhibiting at the Organic Produce Summit in Monterey next month and will be sharing its story. Bon said it wants to let the organic community know the extent of its commitment: “We are a responsible company. We have all the necessary certifications; we take good care of our workers; and we can service the organic retail trade with top quality product.”
DuPuis added that Divine Flavor's representatives will be impressing on visitors “how our experiences with organics have allowed us to get where we are today. We have a very good organic program that is second to none in the industry. We stand behind our brand and deliver what we promise 100 percent of the time.”