Victor Moller Schiavetti: The Admirable Life of a Berry Pioneer

The late founder of Hortifrut was a true visionary who transformed the world of berries. This is the story of how he created an industry behemoth and drove a revolutionary shift in northern hemisphere consumption.


“I have always believed that big dreams are the engines that drive people, companies and countries to be great and successful.” These were words from the acceptance speech Vic- tor Moller Schiavetti gave when being given the Chilean Institute of Rational Business Administration (ICARE) Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2007, one of the many recognitions he received throughout his lifetime. Horti- frut, the company he founded in the early 1980s, and which is about to turn 40 years old, started with his big dream, which became the organization’s slogan: “All Berries, To All The World, All Year-round.” Moller died on Oct. 19 at the age of 79, and now rests next to his father, Victor Moller Bordeu in southern Chile’s Biobío region. He grew up in the countryside and followed in the footsteps of earlier generations, working there with rever- ence for the land and its people. He passed on this passion to Ana María Opazo, his wife of 52 years, and to his children. Part of the fourth generation of the Moller family in Chile, as a child he would spend summers and weekends at the family farm in Negrete near the Biobío River. At the age of 16, he went to the United States to study agronomy at Oregon State University and later at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which his father, a former Minister of Agriculture, had also attended. Spontaneous and very creative, he always had an idea mulling in his head and was contagiously enthusiastic, those who knew him agree. Nicolás Moller Opazo, his second eldest son, recalls: “He was very approachable and accessible to everyone, and he was a great storyteller. In

his work he was extremely dedicated and very responsible. On trips he was always the first one up and the last one to go to bed. His style in business was to empower, instill confidence and be very demanding at the same time.” His positive outlook on life and an uncanny ability to transform problems into opportunities were traits that de- fined him, says Nicolás, explaining that this is how Moller managed to reinvent himself time and time again through- out his career. His ventures did not always go as well as planned, but that didn’t discourage him. Today, Hortifrut is a leader in the marketing of blueberries worldwide, and the second-largest company in the berry category. His student days in Oregon in the 1960s — a time when Americans consumed berries for just three or four months annually — and realizing the massive opportunity to sup- ply this counterseasonal market, were perhaps what drove him to fully embark on the journey that would define him. “Victor is absolutely the reason that people in the U.S. enjoy blueberries, blackberries and raspberries in the counterseason,” notes Brian Bocock, Naturipe Farms’ vice president of product management, who worked with Moller for more than 20 years. “No one was producing berries for the U.S. marketplace back then. Lots of peo- ple are doing it now, but at the time nobody, or very few people, were providing fresh raspberries and blackberries in the counterseason, and for sure nobody was providing blueberries. So Victor was a pioneer in that - the original pioneer who helped create this counterseason market. Today the blueberry category has grown exponentially during that timeframe. Since he started they are on the

Vision Magazine 63

December 2022

Powered by