(March 20) GUADALAJARA, Mexico — C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. is looking to expand its business model south of the border and has hired a veteran in the Mexican produce deal to help lead the way.

The Eden Prairie, Minn.-based company hired Francisco “Pancho” Obregon as director of business development for its new Latin America branch. He started in January when the branch was created, said Bud Floyd, C.H. Robinson vice president of produce marketing.

Obregon brings a wealth of experience in the fresh produce industry in both the U.S. and Mexico. His connections in the Mexican produce industry, both with retailers and in the grower-shipper community are essential, as the company expands its presence in Mexico, Floyd said.

“We’re very excited to have Pancho on our team,” he said.

Obregon has more than 35 years of international experience in the industry, most recently with his consulting company, Obregon & Associates Inc., Nogales, Ariz., and as partner in IPR Solutions LLC, Nogales, a produce sourcing and logistics company.

Previously, he was an executive at RB Packing of California Inc., San Diego, a forerunner of Bionova Produce, Nogales.

C.H. Robinson’s plan for the division in Mexico is to provide many of the same services U.S. customers and partners can access — transportation, logistics and produce sourcing, said Jon Nordquist, manager of the Latin America division. It also hopes to strengthen supply lines from Mexico into the U.S.

“Our goal is to wade in slowly,” Nordquist said. “We also will fill in some holes potentially in tropicals and things that we’re not as strong in now.”

Nordquist said C.H. Robinson also has access to its licensed brands like Mott’s, Tropicana and Welch’s for distribution in Mexican markets, if it wishes.

Floyd said C.H. Robinson already has a presence and name recognition in Mexico. It currently operates five transportation and logistics locations in Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo and Queretaro.

The economy, retail climate and consumer profile in Mexico is changing, creating an opportunity for C.H. Robinson, Floyd said. The middle class is getting larger, Floyd said, and the Mexican consumer typically eats more fresh produce per capita than U.S. consumers.

“There are 100 million people in Mexico,” he said. “It is a dynamic marketplace, and we feel it is appropriate to enter it at this time.”

“Retailers want to buy as direct as possible,” says Francisco Obregon (right), the new director of business development for C.H. Robinson Worldwide’s Latin America branch. Bud Floyd, vice president of produce marketing, joins Obregon March 12 at Expo ANTAD in Guadalajara, Mexico.