Phillip Smith, former president of Calavo Growers and one of the founders of Interfresh Inc., died Oct. 17. He was 83.

Former Calavo president, Interfresh co-founder dies


With his son, Craig Smith, and Chris Puentes, Smith co-founded Interfresh in Orange, Calif., in 1987.

“Phil’s contributions to the company remain invaluable,” Puentes, president of Interfresh, said in a news release. “His influence on Craig and me … was a fundamental reason for our early success. He really was a mentor for us both, and his steady hand and calm, quiet leadership helped set the tone for the company early on.”

Smith retired from Interfresh in 2004, ending a fresh produce career of 55 years.

Smith launched his career in 1949, at the family’s grocery store in Arkansas City, Kan. He left the store after nine years to join the Kroger Co., Cincinnati, as a store manager and eventually moved to the West Coast as manager of fresh products for the Johnson Pie Co., Los Angeles.

In 1973, Smith became marketing director for Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc., later becoming president.

He left Calavo in 1983 to form Management Associates, a firm focused on facilitating international trade. Among the California-based company’s early clients was the Chilean Winter Fruit Association. Smith, according to the release, was instrumental in helping establish the U.S. market for off-season fruit from Chile.

He is survived by Marta, his wife of 62 years; children, Howard, Marti and Craig, who is the chief executive officer of Interfresh; and three grandchildren

Funeral services are scheduled for Oct. 27.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Smith’s name to the â€œIntrepid Fallen Heroes Fund,” New York, N.Y., at

(Note on correction: The article originally referenced the incorrect organization for donations.)