The Giumarra Companies
LOS ANGELES – Feb. 6, 2017 – The Giumarra Companies is pleased to announce the 100 year anniversary of its grower partner, Agrícola Santa Teresa S.A. de C.V. of Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. Giumarra and Santa Teresa have been working together for more than 45 years to market the company’s selection of high-quality produce.
“We are thrilled to help usher in a new chapter of continued success and quality with our partners and extended family at Santa Teresa,” says John Corsaro, CEO of the Giumarra Companies.
Santa Teresa Company History
Santa Teresa was founded in 1917 by Julio Podesta Sambuceti, originally of Genoa, Italy. Julio immigrated to San Francisco, California during the turn of the last century due to political unrest in Genoa. While working as a window cleaner for his uncle in San Francisco, he became involved in the delivery of fruits and vegetables.
Julio experienced success selling fruits and vegetables to local restaurants and hotels. He had heard from family friends that Mexico was an excellent place to begin a produce business venture given its land, climate, and labor. He decided to move to the state of Sinaloa, Mexico.
In 1917, he rented land from the Sinaloa Land Company to begin growing produce. Julio married María Natalia Reyes Medina in 1925. His wife gave birth to four children: Blanca, Vita, Adahilia, and María Teresa.
Julio purchased 150 hectares of his own land in 1926 and began growing tomatoes, bell peppers, cantaloupe, and watermelon. However, in the early 1930’s, all but 50 hectares of Julio’s land were expropriated by the Mexican government as part of land reform initiatives. He continued to grow on the 50 hectares that remained and along local river banks where irrigation was available.
Despite this setback, Julio purchased four lots of 100 hectares each in the Batauto region, a newly-irrigated area, in the 1950’s. As the Mexican government could not confiscate anything less than 100 hectares, he put one lot under the name of each of his daughters.
The earliest label Julio developed was Las Delicias, which translates to “The Delights.” His prominent Santa Teresa label was not developed until the 1950’s or 60’s and was possibly named after Julio’s grandmother. Due to the success of the Santa Teresa label, the company ultimately adopted the label as its namesake.
Giumarra and Santa Teresa Partnership
In 1968, Julio’s daughter, Elva “Vita” Carlota Podesta, took over the management of the business. She met Don Corsaro, then president of the Giumarra Companies, in 1971. Giumarra was in the midst of rapid expansion within its import program, and Don saw an excellent opportunity in working with Mexico; thus, Vita and Don developed a business relationship.
“For a woman in Mexico to be the head of a business at that time was unheard of,” says Don Corsaro, chairman of the Giumarra Companies. “But Vita was tough. She aligned with some very prominent people in Culiacán who really respected her, and she worked on the packing line sorting tomatoes herself until 10 o’clock at night.”
The partnership between Giumarra and the Podesta family led to the opening of Giumarra’s Nogales sales division in 1971. Julio Podesta passed in 1973. Vita’s nephew, Enrique Lopez Podesta, became involved with the business in the 1980’s along with his brothers Sergio and Jaime Lopez Podesta.
During the 1970’s and 80’s, many prominent tomato producers in the U.S. began to switch from vine-ripe to mature green tomatoes to service ever-growing fast food chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s. Enrique foresaw the need to make the shift within his own company.
“Switching to mature greens is probably why Santa Teresa is still in business today,” says Bill Clausen, executive vice president of the Giumarra Companies. “Enrique also facilitated the construction of two gassing facilities – one in Mexico and one in Nogales – to manage ripening and maintain excellent quality at a time when Mexico was competing heavily with U.S.-grown tomatoes.”
Enrique took over the management of Santa Teresa from his aunt Vita in 2006. He currently runs the company.
Santa Teresa Today
Santa Teresa’s present-day production of mature green tomatoes is more than 3.5 million boxes, a marked growth from its 1980’s production of 800,000 boxes annually. All of the mature green tomatoes are sold to the U.S. market.
“My grandfather came to Mexico with the dream of growing high-quality fresh produce for the American market,” says Enrique Podesta. “We consider the U.S. a very important partner.”
To support the anniversary, Santa Teresa will hold a commemorative luncheon with its workers on Feb. 25. The centennial celebration represents a significant milestone to the livelihood of more than 1,200 seasonal and full time employees. Additionally, all boxes of product sold in 2017 will feature a Santa Teresa 100 Year Anniversary seal.
“We look forward to continuing our relationship with Enrique and Giumarra as one of our most important supply chain partners in the SUBWAY® system,” says Michael Spinazzola, president of Diversified Restaurant Systems, Inc.
About the Giumarra Companies
The Giumarra Companies is a leading international network of fresh produce growers, distributors, and marketers that encompasses a world of freshness. Since its inception in 1922, the Giumarra group of companies has taken pride in a longstanding commitment and tradition of quality, service, and industry leadership to feed the world in a healthy way.
The Nature's Partner brand represents the core of what we do: a partnership with our people, customers, growers, and the land and its fruits. Products packed under the Nature's Partner label represent some of the highest-quality fruits and vegetables in the marketplace, having met strict standards for food safety, quality control, and flavor. The Nature’s Partner Brand Promise:
“We are committed to the people we work with and those we serve. Very simply, we look to provide the best service and improve upon it every day.”