shelves 52 weeks a year in abundance, and at an affordable price for the consumer. Don Victor was a great man who will be sorely missed by the many people in the berry in - dustry who worked with him and those of us lucky enough to call him friend.” The beginnings The road to build what today has become one of the world’s largest multinational berry companies was not without obstacles. But with grit and creativity, Moller continuously got back on his feet when the going got tough. His parents’ farm, which produced apples for export along with other products, was expropriated. They lost almost all of their land, which the family had owned for more than 150 years, and that led to a difficult period when the family had to start from scratch. Moller was not yet 30 years old at this time, and as soon as he married, he and his wife decided to cross the Andes into Argentina in search of new horizons. They started with a dry-cleaning business in Buenos Aires, which would soon be replaced by a more innovative business, the first hybrid pig breeding company in the southern hemisphere. He later liquidated the business and returned to Chile in the early 1980s, buying back farm - lands that had belonged to his family. His first business venture was with Juan Sutil, his friend and the current president of the Confederation of Produc - tion and Commerce of Chile (CPC). The duo started with 45 hectares of asparagus before planting their first four hectares of raspberries. Sutil recalls: “We had moments of great joy with the business, and moments of great difficul - ty and failures. Victor Moller knew how to carry both with the same strength and dignity during all these years.” These were the beginnings of Productos Hortícolas y Frutícolas de Chile SA (translated literally as Fruit and Vegetable Products of Chile), which started its operations in 1983 and a few years later became known as Hortifrut. The king of berries Moller concentrated on the production of raspberries and on how to get them to the United States. Given the deli - cate nature of the fruit, it was vital to transport the prod - uct correctly so that it would arrive in optimal condition at its destination. In 1984, the first shipment of 9,000 boxes arrived. However, the local distributor withheld the payment, and Moller received nothing. He had to sell part of the farmland to cover the losses, but it also helped him to rethink the structure of the business to make it work successfully. One of his first decisions was to open an of -

fice in Miami and for himself to take charge of overseeing the receiving and marketing of the fruit. In his business model, and given the fragility of his berries, he contend - ed that control of the whole process, and his presence in the field, was essential. Nicolás says that although he and his siblings were still children at the time, they worked every summer on the harvest, which was arduous work. “The raspberries were harvested from November to March, from Monday to Monday. In the beginning they were transported in buses belonging to Lit — a local chain — from the field to San - tiago’s airport. There was no technology. He had to invent everything from scratch.” Moller looked for new ways of doing things, from inno - vating in fruit harvesting and distribution, to developing new packaging and post-harvest techniques. As explained by Moller himself in the book Atrevidos (meaning ‘The Daring Ones’) by Manuel Fernandez: “What I designed was an integrated business model from genetics to the end customer, without intermediaries, so as not to run risks of unexpected things happening.” Nicolás explains that his father started in a corner of Chile but quickly realized that this business was going to be global. “Berries were not a priority for distributors. But raspberries are very perishable, and, if you don’t give them the 24/7 attention and focus they require, you can’t be suc - cessful. He concluded very early on that he had to market his own berries, and he co-founded marketing platforms such as Naturipe in the U.S. and Euroberry in Europe,” he says. “It was a broad dream of vertical integration, and as there was nothing, we had to do everything — genetics, nurseries, fields, import, export and distribution.” Then Moller added blueberries to his product mix, which would position Hortifrut together with its partners as a global leader and the largest producer of organic blue - berries in the world. Strawberries and blackberries were added later. To maintain a prominent spot at the forefront, product quality was crucial, and he was always clear about the role of genetics and investing in research and devel - opment. A people-centered culture also characterized his vision, which encompassed the customers’ point of view as well as the employees’. In Sutil’s view, Moller contributed to innovation in the sector not only in terms of production technologies, but also in terms of marketing and how to approach the end consumer. John Shelford, strategic advisor to Naturipe Value Added Foods who also served as president of Na - turipe Farms, says: “Victor Moller was a great visionary.

Vision Magazine 65

December 2022

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