Ads showcase MSQ Seal

Look out for ads promoting the MSQ Seal


To ensure our program and Seal of Excellence receive wide exposure with receivers, we are launching a trade ad campaign in select major U.S. print and on-line publications such as The Packer, Produce News, Produce Business, Perishable News, and “e-zines” (online magazines) like Fresh Plaza, etc.    

At left is the first ad in the planned print campaign.  These ads represent the new effort for all our agencies to showcase the same “look” and copy to ensure image consistency worldwide.  

 All total, these publications — many now in both print and on-line versions —  reach thousands of decision-makers at distributor companies, retail and foodservice chains around the globe.  Ideally, these ads will accompany publicity features about MSQ for maximum impact.   

The goal is also to have these ads run when we are visiting with major chains.  They serve to reinforce the message that MSQ-certified products are beneficial to their business.  As one supermarket chain executive told us:   

“We’re all looking for a point of difference in a very competitive environment.   A Seal of quality certainly reinforces the fact that we go one step further to deliver the best to our customers.”  

We have also  received quite a bit of publicity since the year started.  We’ve counted at least six positive feature stories outlining MSQ activities and personnel in the above-listed publications.  Be sure to look out for more of these…  

MSQ is also planning consumer-directed TV ads to be placed in targeted stations and markets, and will tell you more about this  program soon.  

ALSO OF NOTE:  We’ve posted the complete MSQ Program PowerPoint presentation on the Program Review page.  Please click on that page, above, and download this informative document for your files (link is on bottom of page.)  


First meeting of Ambassadors

Ambassadors (l) John Pandol, Brian LaForest, Gale Prince, Martin Ley, with counsel "Kip" Martin, meet in Nogales

The first meeting of our newly-formed group of U.S.-based MCS Ambassadors took place on a relevant historical day.  It was the same day Mexico President Calderon was visiting the White House… 

Our small group, however, did not include diplomats or politicians.  Rather, it consisted of produce industry experts committed to helping us communicate the MSQ message:  our own Ambassadors  (Read more about them on our April 1 post, below).  This group may be small in size, but certainly not in thinking! 

In a three-hour session held at the beautiful headquarters of Del Campo (Ley Group) in Nogales,  AZ, Gale Prince (former food safety director at The Kroger Cos., Martin Ley (Del Campo), John Pandol (Pandol Bros.), and Brian LaForest (Superior), exchanged ideas and engaged in lively discussion.    Ambassador Enrique Diaz (Diazteca) unfortunately could not join us due to pressing business. 

Also present was Robert (Kip) Martin, an attorney with focus on agricultural law.  His clients include several of the more than 100 produce importers/distributors on the Nogales border.  Mr. Martin’s insight and guidance on what an advisory board can or cannot do under U.S. antitrust laws was invaluable, as well as his ability to keep the group on-point during discussions. 

Discussions ranged from the status of the pending  U.S. food safety legislation to the challenges of communicating the superior Mexico food safety standards to the North American marketplace…and much in between.   Specific program recommendations are being drafted now for submission to MSQ staff for review. 

As our gracious host, Ambassador Ley, put it:  “Mexico has arguably the most stringent food safety guidelines in the world.  Problem is, few know this.  By being involved in work groups such as this, we can share this information to the ultimate benefit of the consumer.” 

It is exactly the willingness of this group to help with this outreach — to influence others into understanding the program and its benefits —  that is of so much value to us.   These industry leaders are very busy running their companies, so their time is valuable.  

We thank each and every one for their dedication to MSQ/MCS! 

(Important note:  The MCS Ambassadors are planning to meet again in late summer.  Please let us know if you have any issue of specific interest to your operations you wish them to discuss and advise on. ) 


Retailers promote Seal of Excellence

The key activity of our program this season has been to gain MSQ program understanding and acceptance by North American retail chains.  To that end, both our Mexico City and U.S.-based marketing teams have met with these chains and delivered compelling slide and video presentations detailing our program.

Actually, we have been doing this for a couple of seasons but now are seeing  concrete and measurable results as retailers increase their Mexico produce sourcing and become more familiar with our program and Seal.  Importantly, we are now able to convince these chains to communicate to their customers the quality and safety of their imports using advertising and promotion vehicles.

The high quality of produce out of Mexico these days has been a great persuader.  As one of our Masters of MCS program recipients (see 4/20 post),  produce director Steve Wright (Spartan Foods, MI, 400+ stores)  recently noted:

“Michigan is a big agricultural state so I get to see a lot of fields and packing houses to compare, but I continue to be impressed by the dedication made to food safety, sanitation, and technology in Mexico.”

Spartan’s customers look for value, and Mexico produce this season has delivered that in addition to the quality.  Wright said he is also pleased to see specific grower groups such as the Sonora Grape Association (AALPUM), where every member is MSQ-certified.  “It makes it easier for us to promote the crop and industry in question.”  That is why he is currently running grape ads featuring the Seal.

Another chain of similar thinking in our target market of the Midwest (where we have the greatest opportunity for growth) is on the upper end of the demographic scale,  Hollywood Markets, of Detroit (17 stores).   Pictured above is the beautiful grape ad they ran featuring our Seal…need we say more?

On the other side of the country are major wholesalers like Charlie’s Produce, also a 2010 Master of MCS recipient, servicing over 600 stores throughout the Northwest and into Alaska.  They opted to post the Seal on their web site with verbiage briefly explaining the program, plus a link to this blog and our main website.

With over 1.3 million hits on their site during this period (April-May) the impact of such an effort adds up.  This innovative group also e-mailed memos and even promoted the Seal via their “on hold” message on their phones!

As you can see, there are myriad ways to spread the message about MSQ, and we are very pleased and appreciative to see how chains are taking the lead in devising new and creative ways to inform their customers about us. 

With over 30,000 supermarkets across the U.S. alone, a goal of having our program accepted by all chains represented by these stores is indeed ambitious and will take time, but thanks to our savvy retail partners, we are slowly gaining ground!


Research center liaison benefits MSQ

Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli of the CPS

 One of the key initiatives for our current U.S. program is affiliation with key food safety industry groups.   In fact, that was a key recommendation from our MCS Ambassadors at our last meeting in May (see post below).   

Premier among these groups is the Center for Produce Safety (CPS) at the University of California, Davis, CA.  Founded in 2006 after the California spinach outbreak, this non-profit sponsored by the Produce Marketing Assn. (PMA), with the support of a generous grant from Taylor Farms, is totally focused on the science arena.   In fact, this multi-agency collaboration (similar to MSQ) involving the University, the California Dept. of Food & Agriculture and others, does not concern itself with legislation or any other political activity.  

Next week the group is hosting its annual conference slated to feature several industry leaders presenting the latest produce safety research, with more than 250 professionals expected to attend (MSQ is a sponsor.  Read more about this event at Registration is still open as of this writing.)  

In an interview with Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director for the CPS the past three years, she explained:  “We are not a political organization.  Our priority is supporting much-needed research in food safety by partnering with key grower organizations and other experts.”   

In fact, Ms. Fenaroli — who  has extensive commodity experience after heading the California Wheat Commission for over 20 years — says one of their key goals is building an extensive database of global food safety personnel:  one that association participants and supporters can access to their benefit.   

The organization is international in scope, and is now currently funding crop research in Israel. . .and hopes to do projects in Mexico soon.  Ms. Fenaroli sees MSQ support and participation with them as a win-win, noting:  

 “We’re pleased MSQ is interested in associating with us.  As major producers and exporters, Mexican growers interested in researching subjects where there is gap in knowledge are invited to meet with us and request a custom project.”  

MSQ is now a Gold Level member/sponsor of the PMA and plans to be increasingly involved in these types of organizations and activities.  Clearly, these liaisons not only help spread our message, but also ensure our certified grower members and retailer partners have access to the best minds in food safety today.


Masters of MCS Awards a success

MSQ's F. Rubio (left) and D. Rojas w/ Fresh Produce Assn.'s Georgina Felix tour vineyards in Sonora.

Our hard-working staffers, Diana Rojas and Faride Rubio, have just returned from a tour of beautiful, MSQ-certified vineyards in Sonora, where they also  presented the 2010 Masters of MCS Awards.

The second year of this awards program was even better received than the first!  Word has gotten around that it provides good exposure for our industry, and recipients have been proud to share the fact that they have been recognized by the Mexico Government and MSQ  in this manner.  Please also check out the good publicity about this event in The Packer, Perishable News and other leading produce industry trades.

The dinner event this year was held at the lovely Vinas De La Costa grape ranch near the Sea of Cortez at sunset, with around 90 in attendance.  Also present, wearing their Ambassador pins, were new MSQ Ambassadors John Pandol (Pandol Bros) and Brian LaForest (Superior).

Here are the 2010 U.S. Masters of MCS award recipients, in no particular order:

CHARLIE’S PRODUCE, Seattle, WA, Master Wholesaler
SUN FED, Nogales, AZ, Master Distributor
MAS MELONS & GRAPES, Nogales, AZ, Master Distributor
SPARTAN FOODS, Grand Rapids, MI, Master Retailer
SUPERVALU, Eden Prairie, MN, Master Retailer/Wholesaler.
Again, our heartfelt congratulations to these award recipients who, despite the most challenging economy in memory, continue to support — and in many cases expand — their procurement and promotion of produce from Mexico.
Be sure to check back soon for future posts where we highlight these recipients and their companies!

Summit open to all!

The Sonora Summit vineyard tours are popular

We’ve recently had a few question whether you have to be a grape producer and importer to participate in the upcoming Sonora Spring  Summit in Hermosillo, Mexico.  The answer is an emphatic: NO!  In fact, with speakers in the area of motivation and international market trends, all our guests find the program relevant and interesting.

Juan Laborin, head of the Sonora Grape Growers Assn. and also MSQ Treasurer, is host of the Sonora Summit

What’s also important is that this event is hosted by MSQ Board Treasurer and head of the Sonora Grape Growers Association, (AALPUM) Ing. Juan Laborin.  A grape grower himself,  Juan is a very knowledgeable and a perfectly-charming  host! 

In previous seasons we have had 300 +/- guests for our two-day event, and this year we also expect a good crowd because, in addition to the regular Summit tour and speakers, our staff  and agencies will be there to honor our Masters of MCS:  receivers in North America who have excelled in procurement and promotion of Mexico produce.  We’ve mentioned the 2009 winners in a previous post here, but this year’s winners are a secret until the event!

Given that just about 100% of the Sonora grape industry is certified by MSQ we look especially forward to this event to catch up with our grower members and supporters.  We are also happy to greet our media friends who are there to learn about the latest industry developments.

The Summit begins with tours of vineyards next Thursday (15th) afternoon.   This is always a pleasant experience as the weather is still relatively cool and the ranches already look lush with fruit for the May harvest.  The scenario is very pleasant, especially at sunset when we all gather at for a typical Sonora carne asada (barbecue), followed by the Masters of MCS awards ceremony.

On Friday, we begin right after breakfast with an impressive list of speakers, including officials from the USDA and related agencies,  followed by the eagerly-awaited crop forecast.  This is when the media present turn up their translation transmitters (the event is simultaneously translated English/Spanish) and the eyebrows raise as the different growing areas and ranches report their crop status…

In all, this is the launch to the eagerly-awaited spring grape season, and an occasion where you can meet some new industry members, learn something interesting, and bask in the warm Sonora hospitality. 

We urge you to attend, but remember:  the event is popular and spaces fill up fast on a first come/first served basis.   If you have not yet made your reservations, please contact right away:

AALPUM (Sonora Grape Growers Assn.), at (520) 829-4295 (from U.S.), or in Mexico: (662)260-0176 .  Ask for Monica or Nora.  Or e-mail  

Hope to see you there!


Industry Leader joins us

We are extremely pleased and privileged to have a leader in global food safety among the MCS Ambassadors (industry members who serve on the Mexico Calidad Suprema’s U.S. Advisory Board).

A few months ago we introduced this gentleman to our program, and he saw its merits… We saw this as a critical benchmark, because Mr. Gale Prince just happens to have headed the food safety program at The Kroger Cos., the #1 supermarket chain in the U.S. 

This is a respected professional with over 40 years experience in food safety in food manufacturing and retail operations.  Considered a pioneer in the food safety industry,  Mr. Prince started his career in 1967 at the Jewel Companies (Chicago).  Also widely known for his involvement in industry and regulatory activities, Mr. Prince has been called “The Dean” of product recalls after having managed several thousand in his career.  

His knowledge of ensuring compliance with food safety regulatory requirements will be of critical benefit as MSQ expands and refines its programs, as well as prepares for pending U.S. food safety legislation (you can read more about him at

Mr. Prince joins other respected industry leaders as MCS Ambassador serving on our Advisory Board during 2010.  He will represent the interests of retailers.  Other MCS Ambassadors representing specific segments or areas, are:

Brian LaForest, Superior Sales, Michigan, representing wholesalers

Martin Ley, Del Campo, representing Arizona importers/distributors

Enrique Diaz, Diazteca, representing Texas importers/distributors

John Pandol, Pandol Bros., representing California importers/distributors

As you can imagine, these industry leaders — working together — will be invaluable to our program, and we thank them for serving!

The MCS Ambassadors will be formally welcomed by MSQ General Manager Liz Quintero at the upcoming Sonora Summit, Hermosillo, Mexico, April 14-15.  

They will also be individually profiled on this site, so please check back soon.   Also look for articles and mentions in key produce industry journals about the Ambassadors and their activities.

(For information about attending the Sonora Summit, please contact the Sonora Grape Assn. (AALPUM) via its U.S. phone # 520-829-4295, or e-mail:



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