Oregon Berry Packing:
Small Business Thrives Abroad

Exporting on thin margins with limited financial insights
Export sales protection and risk management, maintain strong customer partnerships, and marketing tool for growth. 

Oregon Berry Packing, headquartered in Hillsboro, Oregon, has been in the blueberry business for more than 70 years. It’s a shining example of why small businesses are often called the backbone of the American economy. Oregon Berry does it all—growing, packing, selling, shipping—for premium buyers both domestically and overseas, where the blueberry market is booming.

As international demand for Oregon Berry’s fruit has grown in recent years, it’s been an exciting challenge to expand supply in response. But Oregon Berry—and its Director of International Sales, Terry Fasel—are up for the challenge. Fasel credits the company’s partnership with Allianz Trade for helping the company both market its services and expand sales abroad.

Oregon Berry has been around for the better part of a century, and many of its supply chains are well established. Although the company does serve domestic partners, it specializes in selling to international buyers. And selling and shipping fresh blueberries across the ocean so that they arrive in perfect condition is a challenging trade.

Export sales margins are thin because international shipping is complex, and buyers can be financially impacted by the swings of other commodity fruit markets. To top it off, fresh fruit is, of course, a seasonal business. That’s one big reason why the Allianz Trade partnership works so well for Oregon Berry: coverage is adjusted so that the company only has the protection it needs—no matter the season. “Trade credit insurance is like a spigot that you can turn on and off,” says Terry Fasel. “It’s unbelievably flexible.” Both Allianz Trade and the customer can make adjustments over the life of the policy, as needed.

Oregon Berry leverages its trade credit insurance policy to overcome the challenges of its industry and grow its business overseas. “The Allianz Trade services provide a backstop,” says Fasel. “It gives us peace of mind, so we don’t have to worry. Without this tool, we probably wouldn’t export.”

Many companies work with Allianz Trade to manage risk associated with non-paying clients. Although Oregon Berry’s trade credit insurance policy offers this protection, the company hasn’t yet needed to file a claim—and it doesn’t intend to. Instead, the company strategically leverages its partnership with Allianz Trade in other ways to protect its export sales and mitigate risk. 

There are always factors outside of a company’s control. Sometimes, customers are late on payments. When this happens, Fasel says the Allianz Trade policy is “a significant tool in making sure that we’re paid promptly.”

Fasel calls late buyers and references the policy, explaining that soon he will need to report the late payment to his insurer because Oregon Berry insures all of its receivables. Buyers don’t want to risk their ability to work with Oregon Berry, so the call gently prompts payment. By leaning on the Allianz Trade brand, Fasel can preserve his relationships with buyers.

While Fasel’s title is officially Director of International Sales, he says he “wears a lot of different hats” at the company, which is common for those working in a small business. “I spend a lot of time in the packing shed, a little time on the farm,” says Fasel. “And I work on business development, new project development, and acquisition.”

That doesn’t leave much time to research buyers and monitor financial markets. The Allianz Trade partnership takes that off Oregon Berry’s crowded plate and offers specialist information a small business simply doesn’t have access to. “There isn’t simple credit reporting for customers like ours overseas,” says Fasel. “On our own, gaining an understanding of our buyers’ history andpayment experience is difficult at best.”

Allianz Trade also monitors the different markets that Oregon Berry ships to and can alert Fasel to developments that may impact his trade. Relying on Allianz Trade to deliver sound financial and market information means that Fasel has more time to focus on his many other responsibilities.

"The Allianz Trade services provide a backstop. It gives us peace of mind, so we don't have to worry. Without this tool, we probably wouldn't export"
– Terry Fasel, Director of International Sales

One of the ways that Oregon Berry protects its margins is through an expert understanding of its supply chain and the shipping partnerships fostered over the years. Building and maintaining these relationships with shippers—as well as buyers—is at the core of Oregon Berry’s business.

Berries are a seasonal product, and berry buyers are often buying different fruit from other suppliers throughout the year. If one of those markets takes a turn—poor loads, pricing issues, or more—it can hurt a berry buyer’s bottom line. This adversely affects their ability to obtain credit going forward, even though they are still great partners for Oregon Berry. 

Oregon Berry works with Allianz Trade to re-evaluate the creditworthiness of all their buyers at the beginning of the season. As a marketer, Fasel says it can harm a 10- or 15-year relationship with a buyer to tell them they can no longer buy on credit or that they can’t make money on blueberries this year. The partnership with Allianz Trade means Fasel doesn’t need to have that conversation. He can offer reduced credit terms until they bounce back, “as most good sales guys do,” says Fasel. When very significant buyers are in a rough patch, Fasel uses the dummy CAP program to shore up coverage, allowing him to continue extending credit. “And by turning to CAP, we’re still able to ship to customers that are having a bit of a rougher go,” says Fasel. Now, that’s how you maintain long-term relationships!

– Joe Garcia, New Elevation President

Trade credit insurance helps Oregon Berry grow its business by allowing it to sell internationally. But Fasel also views trade creditinsurance as a key part of the company’s marketing strategy.

Every year, Fasel likes to partner with a few smaller traders to “help them grow up a bit.” Smaller operations are used to paying in cash, one pallet at a time. With the protection of trade credit insurance, Fasel can offer them an enticing opportunity. “I can tell them, ‘Hey, when you turn in these financials and this information, you will be able to play as the big guys do,’” he says. Often,smaller outfits take him up on his offer.

Fasel also believes in providing his buyers “a well of information” so that they, in turn, “have the tools they need to sell to their buyers.” Trade credit insurance provides confidence for the entire supply chain because protecting accounts receivable means that cash flow and profitability are also protected, resulting in a stable, trustworthy company. “If I make the buyer’s job easier, they don’t think twice about buying from me,” says Fasel. “Our export program is so significant. Trade credit insurance is the only reason that we’ve grown, the only reason.”

– Terry Fasel, Director of International Sales
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