Timco Worldwide Inc., Davis, Calif., celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, grew from humble beginnings.

Continued growth expected as Timco marks 25 years

In 1982, 20-year-old Tim Colin, who would become founder and chief executive officer of Timco Worldwide, was uncertain about his future.

That’s when neighbors, who owned a potato and onion brokerage, lured him into the fresh produce industry. Among his early assignments was to evaluate the watermelon market.

“I saw there was opportunity,” Colin said.

Two years later, Timco was founded — in his parents’ Saratoga garage, he said. In short order, consolidation among retailers dictated changes.

“It became clear to me that they (the retailers) were going to an f.o.b. buying program as opposed to a delivered program,” Colin said.

“The path of my future was clear: the natural path of this industry was going to be grower-shipper direct.”

Timco began to create partnerships with growers as others in the melon industry cast a skeptical eye.

“Most of my competitors told me I was crazy, that I was taking on too much risk,” Colin said.

Today, Timco Worldwide has a grower network that reaches into 12 U.S. states, Mexico and Central America.

The company, among the first to develop a year-round supply of watermelons and other melon varieties, has entered into a breeding partnership with Israel-based Origene Seeds Ltd.

There have been overtures from other seed companies, but Timco is comfortable with Origene, Colin said.

“Their goals are very much in line with our goals,” he said.

Two proprietary varieties resulting from the Timco-Origene marriage are already on the market, Colin said, and four new varieties are in beta trials. They could be released within the next two years, he said.

Timco’s Melon Up brand is sold at markets throughout North America and is exported to Europe and Asia.

The Timco-Origene partnership’s mutual goals focus on quality and continuity of supply, said Rex Lawrence, Timco’s vice president of operations.

In support of its grower-partners, the company has taken over tasks that often fall on the shoulders of growers — such tasks as coordinating with third-party auditors, establishing food safety standards, traceability duties and handling recalls, he said.

“We want our growers to do what they do best, and we’ll take care of the rest,” Lawrence said.

It is a formula that has bred success. What Colin describes as significant growth in recent years has begat a new administration and sales complex into which the company moved in early 2009.

Completing the Timco campus is an adjacent 11-acre research, breeding, development and greenhouse site.

“All of our plants for seed are greenhouse grown,” Lawrence said, “under 100% controlled conditions.”

Control in the fields is another Timco earmark. A fleet of 13 of the company’s patented TX-5 melon weight and sizing machines, under the direction of the quality Assurance staff, follows the harvests to provide consistent size to retailers, Lawrence said.

“The machines are able to match the product to each customer,” he said. “The best place to reject a product is in the field.”

Timco’s involvement in field-to-market operations benefits growers, customers and consumers alike, Colin said.

“We have a very good sense of what the consumers are looking for in terms of the finished product,” he said,

“But we also have a very good sense of what growers need to have a sustainable, profitable business long term. Without the growers, we have nothing.”

Recent changes at Timco are not limited to buildings and research. Lawrence was recently promoted from sales director to his new post as vice president of operations. The promotion climaxed an unsuccessful three-year, out-of-company search, Colin said.

“I realized Rex has every single one of the characteristics I was looking for,” he said.

Jeremy Giovannetti and Pat Colin jointly assumed Lawrence’s old post. Giovannetti oversees Eastern customers while Colin handles Western accounts. In addition, Norman Sorensen joined Timco as chief financial officer, Colin said.

Timco’s line of organic melons continues to grow “in a very methodical manner,” Lawrence said.

“We are trying to walk before we run,” he said. “Each decision is based on whether it makes sense for us and for our growers.”

While production costs are similar to conventionally grown melons, the challenge with organic melons is the yield, Lawrence said.

The company’s seven-year strategic plan sees continued growth in the melon category, and opportunities in foodservice.

“We do serve some foodservice customers, but we could do more, Lawrence said. 

For those reasons — and others — there are no plans for Timco to grow and market other commodities, he said.

Strengthening the management team has paved the way for improving relationships with customers and growers, while simultaneously placing emphasis on operating efficiencies to help maintain the company’s trajectory of consistent growth, Colin said.

The company’s Davis campus and its nearly 30-person staff are a far cry from the 22-year-old operating alone in a Saratoga garage.

“It’s been a wonderful ride. I truly enjoy the industry,” Colin said. “I hope the industry has benefited from our hard work.”