A Humble and Happy New Year Greeting

It can be a tough balancing act to spread holiday cheer while at the same time acknowledging that the previous year was so difficult for many of us due to the impact of COVID-19.

But from a purely business standpoint, I would like to celebrate the fact that because Prime Group was so well established before going into the “storm,” we were not only able to survive, but thrive. And that’s a good thing for our many customers and employees around the world who depend on us every day.

It’s also important to note that it’s not just a happy new year, but an exciting new decade of service as well for the Prime Group. This year we reach a major milestone in the company’s history—our 20th anniversary.

Budding Business

It was July 2001 when the company launched out of one small office near Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport. The plan was to provide the utmost in customer service and know-how in transporting fresh flowers from Ecuador to Miami, and business took off.

At that time, we could hardly foresee that within 20 years Prime Group would grow to be a leader in logistics services with a network of facilities, professional staff, and certified agents all around the world. We have since grown and evolved in all sorts of ways and have a host of accomplishments of which we are incredibly proud.

The Prime Difference

At our core, Prime Group has always been about solving the customer’s most difficult problems. When challenges are presented, we flourish because they bring out the very best in us and give us the stage to show others just how good the quality of our services are.

We are extremely thankful to all of our customers—past and present—for whom we have proudly worked side-by-side as we continually endeavor to support their missions. It continues to be an honor and a privilege.

Upon this milestone, I’d also like to express my sincerest gratitude and appreciation to all of our employees. In my mind, the absolute best part of building and growing a company has been the opportunity to attract, recruit, and retain exceptionally skilled individuals that share the mindset of working together as a team to solve difficult problems. You can draw a direct line between their talents, dedication, and hard work, and our success.

Looking Ahead

World renowned for our attention to detail, we recently turned our attention inward by launching new business-management and marketing initiatives—and this strategy is paying great dividends.

We are expanding and energizing our organization from top to bottom by introducing new talent with specific skills. Their enthusing energy combined with our seasoned team of experts in their respective fields has not only further enhanced the customer experience, but has positioned us as stronger and more resilient in facing the biggest challenges of our times.

New possibilities will be realized as we further grow the commercial side of our operation. Aggressive expansion of our customer base across all divisions remains a top priority this year while staying true to our corporate values of Honesty, Responsibility, Commitment, and Integrity. These core standards not only serve to make us better internally, but define how our customers and our peers perceive us.

As you know, this is also a very challenging year as the world is still in the midst of an unprecedented global health crisis. So while it’s not a time for celebration in the true sense of the word, it is still important for us to humbly recognize what the Prime Group of companies have become over the past two decades and to be excited about what is to come as we crest the horizon of the new normal in global logistics.

So again, from our Prime Group family to yours, we wish you a happy and very healthy new year.

Critical Mission: Assuring Vaccines Become Vaccinations

In 2020, the entire world’s priority mission was to stop COVID-19 in its tracks. Sadly, by late December, more than 77 million people had become infected and 1.7 million had died, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

But thankfully, the new year has begun with much hope for brighter days ahead with the launch of both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the potential for a release of more than 250 additional vaccines across the globe.

Today, the virus-fighting mission has shifted to a new, different, and just as critical priority – “quick, efficient, and safe distribution” of tens of millions of doses of those life-saving vaccines and medical supplies to support the massive immunization of people on every continent on the planet.

At Ground Zero

Global logistics companies such as the Prime Group thus are now at “ground zero” in stopping the spread of the virus, by ensuring vaccines move door-to-door while maintaining their efficacy—from manufacturer to airport to the last mile.

And it’s an astounding task. According to Larry St. Onge, President of Life Sciences & Healthcare for DHL, the need for a stable cold-supply chain for both vaccines and medical suppliers is clearly the key. (Note: PrimeAir serves as the General Handling Agent for DHL Aviation in Ecuador.)

Pointing out that more than 10 billion doses will need to be delivered to all corners of the world within two years, he further estimates the need for 15 million deliveries in cooling boxes, 200,000 movements by pallet shippers, and 15,000 flights across the various supply chain setups.

Closer to home, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) projects that 30 million COVID-19 vaccine doses will be made available for distribution within the U.S. this month and another 50 million doses in February.

Prime Group’s vital role is to provide the best supply-chain transport and logistics possible to ensure vaccine doses intended for recipients across the globe get to the right places in a safe and timely manner. Ultimately, as a global community, the goal is to turn vaccines into vaccinations—and failure is not an option.

Cold Supply Chain

The cold chain is at the forefront of vaccine logistics. The coronavirus vaccines have strict temperature requirements that must be maintained throughout the supply chain. An important part of adhering to the requirements is ample freezer capacity and monitoring systems that ensure product temperatures don’t get too high or too low. These are service lines where Prime Group companies excel.

All across the globe, we are now handling multi-faceted, highly complex logistics and carefully mapping out the transportation of vaccine vial shipments from manufacturing sites to land-based transportation, onto airline and cargo flights, and into temperature-controlled holding facilities. From there, the vaccines await pick-up by delivery services on the local level for distribution to hospitals and clinics.

We know that no mission is more important. For every day that goes by without the maximum number of people being vaccinated, more lives are at risk. We are very grateful that we’re able to utilize our expertise in shipment and handling of cold-pack, perishable goods to help save lives and stop the spread of the coronavirus.

A Global Team Effort

We are also so appreciative of our industry partners, especially the major air cargo carriers whom we directly support such as Atlas Air, Emirates SkyCargo, DHL Aviation, and even Eastern Airlines.

The critical mission is clear. Vaccines cannot work if they don’t get into the hands of the right people—and quickly. We’re very proud to be doing our part.

Woman getting vaccine

Recognizing Prime Group’s Roots in Roses

Like most things in the age of COVID, it’s difficult to predict what will flop and what will fly. But one thing is for sure—fresh-cut roses are soon to start flying off the shelf with Valentine’s Day just weeks away.

Even in a normal year, no one can predict the exact volume needed to meet the demand on this “day of lovers.” But of course, these are not normal times, especially considering that Valentine’s Day 2021 lands on a Sunday of a long weekend (President’s Day) in the middle of a global pandemic.

Add to that, a plan by American florists and distributors to play it even safer this year by expanding the holiday throughout the week to help boost sales in such a volatile environment. Just a few variables at play here, right?

Flexibility has always been the name of the game in the perishables industry, but even more so in the handling of fresh-cut flowers. In fact, they say if you succeed in shipping fresh flowers, you can ship anything, anywhere.

Simply stated, Prime Group has succeeded.

“Flowers were always very important to our company,” says CEO Roger Paredes. In fact, Prime Group was formed in 2001 solely to provide local growers and forwarders in Ecuador with the best in customer service, know-how, and logistical management in getting their flowers to Miami and beyond.

Budding Business

“The expertise we gained in those early days, and have since built upon, allowed us to retain long-term customers, while at the same time generate new business over the year along multiple service lines like pharmaceuticals and fresh fish, fruit and vegetables,” Paredes adds.

Initially, the company supported operations between Quito and Miami only, but the flower exports just kept growing, so the next logical step was to enter the Amsterdam market, the primary gateway to the entire European market and beyond.

“As business continued to grow, we did too, by moving into Los Angeles, New York, and Colombia, pretty much following the flowers all over the world,” says Paredes.

Now, after 20 years of success, the company has in fact expanded its scope to shipping just about “anything, anywhere” in the world, but this time of year it’s back to basics—filling dozens of freighters full of long-stem roses, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Recent-year sales of roses on Valentine’s Day have risen to nearly $20 billion, with 250 million roses produced for this holiday alone. Though it is not yet clear the degree to which COVID-19 will impact the market this year, it’s all systems go, from the farm to shelf and every specialized step along the way.

So here we are, entering peak season, with two of Prime Group’s key divisions working tirelessly to meet the enormous demand of Valentine’s Day. Prime Fresh Handling is working hand-in-hand to fine-tune the proper shipping and handling process, while PrimeAir is focused on managing the on-the-ground needs of the company’s air cargo partners, as they double, triple, and in some cases quadruple their regular capacity to meet this annual spike in demand.

“The ingrained mentality is you work until you get it done, and that there is zero margin for error. It’s always been this way and always will be,” Paredes notes.

From Field to Vase

The key ingredients for success center around time and temperature. The stopwatch starts ticking with the snip of a stem at the farm, and product must remain perfectly chilled the entire way until it reaches the retail consumer.

Without proper packaging and express shipping, flower life is cut significantly shorter. Appropriate cooling systems and temperature regime are needed to ensure that the flowers remain in good condition. Of course, retailers want to receive fresh-cut flowers as soon as possible after harvest to lengthen vase life, achieve customer satisfaction, and spur repeat sales.

Flowers from farms in Colombia and Ecuador reach North American retailers in as little as four days. So for a rose with an average cut-life of 21 days—with proper care and handling at every stage of its journey—there should be up to 10 to 14 days of vase-life in the consumers’ homes and workplaces.

Once harvested, the supply flow then starts as flowers are placed immediately in refrigerated trucks for transport to Prime Fresh Handling’s facilities where they are prepared for air transport to the center of the U.S. flower distribution system: Miami International Airport. Others head off to Amsterdam for distribution to France, Australia, and the U.K., which also celebrate Valentine’s Day in a big way.

Upon arrival at MIA and AMS, the flower shipments are inspected to ensure the flora is free from harmful pests and diseases. This process can take up to four hours. But after they get a green light, they are released to a local warehouse, where shipments are broken down and shipped off to down-chain international locations or placed on refrigerated trucks for domestic distribution. Retailers are the final link in the journey where the flowers reach the retail shelf and ultimately into the hands of sweethearts.

As the most popular flower in the world, roses are long coveted for their beauty and sweet fragrance, and Valentine’s Day is their biggest day. But for flower producers and shippers/handlers, this holiday is less a day of love, and more a three-week sprint to the finish line.

It’s hard work, and we love it!

Cheese, Glorious Cheese

With the holidays upon us, consumers are ready to party hearty. Many are stocking up on drinks, snacks, fruit, chocolates, and especially cheese, glorious cheese. So, when friends pop in for a holiday celebration—presto—everyone can celebrate in style with an easy-to-prepare, luscious cheese tray or charcuterie board. For food distributors and grocery stores, though, the holiday season is cheerful for another reason—a cornucopia of sales.

Fortunately, some of the most highly-desired cheeses across the globe are making their way into the U.S. market, thanks to the expertise and detailed approach of two of Prime Group brands, Prime Fresh Handling and Prime Logistics. By providing export logistics, customs clearance, and cooler facilities (which, we can assure you, cheese simply loves), we’re ensuring that these specialty cheeses arrive fresh, safe, and on time.

Andean Blue Cheese

For one of our valued customers, Prime Fresh Handling (PFH) and Prime Logistics recently teamed up to transport a shipment of Andean blue cheese, an Ecuadorian delicacy from Troya Hacienda, a cheese factory on Ecuador’s northern border. This was the cheesemaker’s last step in a complex regulatory process that began when it first applied to the appropriate U.S. and Ecuadorian agencies for approval of sanitary compliance to export blue cheese. 

Let’s just say we’re renowned across the globe for our expertise in handling temperature-sensitive specialty cheeses. Prime Group’s careful handling, attention to detail, and shipping experience assured the customer’s valuable Andean blue cheese shipment arrived cool, fresh, and ready for discerning, cheese-loving consumers to sample in Miami, Houston, and New York City. 

Just as the world’s best cheesemakers have spent years perfecting their skills, we’ve done the same. Our PFH global network of bonded and refrigerated storage facilities allow for timely, easy access to all the world’s major markets.

In South Florida, for example, our comprehensive services for cheeses and other perishable foods include U.S. Customs clearance and pick up at Miami International Airport (MIA) upon arrival, followed by immediate storage in the company’s nearby warehouse to maintain a required temperature range of 37-40°F.

Australian Cheddar

Need 500,000 pounds of Australian Cheddar transported? Yep, we’ve done that too, handling that humongous shipment with ease. Success lies in our attention to detail and in knowing that no single step in the process can be overlooked. Our ambitious task starts the moment we receive the cheese from the shipper right on through to the last mile—and onto festive holiday platters all across the world.

Upon splitting up the product according to purchase orders and building the pallets, we then safely load them into temperature-controlled containers bound for ocean freighters or waiting aircraft, whichever the customer desires.

In Sync with Customers

The pathway to preserving quality is closely coordinated with the supplier so that minute-by-minute pick-up and transportation to the port of departure is successfully achieved. Any delay in this synchronized process is simply unacceptable. This is where Prime Fresh Handling truly shines. By paying attention to the smallest of details, we avoid additional costs for our valued customers.

So, with the holidays approaching, we wish you the best in satisfying your retail customers’ desires to create the perfect party spread. And we’ll look forward to hearing from you for our assistance in moving your product the entire way.

Prime Logistics

Prime Logistics team expertly streamlines, optimizes, and expedites freight to and from the U.S. for a wide range of major industries. With hundreds of contacts around the globe, they are skilled at finding competitive rates and ample space via air and ocean shipment to virtually any destination.

Prime Fresh Handling

The PFH global network of bonded and refrigerated storage facilities allows for timely and easy access to all of the world’s major markets. With innovative technology, operational proficiency, and friendly customer relations, PFH expertly handles temperature-sensitive products, from fresh fish, produce, and cut flowers to pharmaceutical products and vaccines.

A Season to Be Grateful During a Year Like No Other

This holiday season is unlike any other, coming at the end of a year like no other. I am inspired to reflect on how fortunate we are to have made it this far, and I am thankful for those who helped us get here.

The COVID-19 pandemic created such unimaginable and unprecedented pressures on worldwide commerce, especially upon those of us that are part of the global supply chain.

Naturally, we were very concerned that the perishables industry, historically Prime Group’s core business, was so hard hit when the pandemic started. Yet when we were called upon in the earliest days of the crisis to support the massive demand for PPE and other medical supplies, it was due to our vast experience in handing time-sensitive products that we were able to respond so quickly—and with great success.

I am so grateful that we had the flexibility and know-how to be able to step up to deliver these life-sustaining materials to people all across the world in their greatest time of need. I am also extremely thankful to the Prime Group employees who made it possible for us to do so—and so proud of every single one of them.

Mission Focused

Not to say we didn’t also focus on ways by which we could support our long-time commitments in South America, because it was crucial that we did that too. Once the worldwide lockdowns and border restrictions were lifted, and the fields in Ecuador and Colombia began producing fresh flowers, fruit, and produce again, reality set in. The word’s cargo capacity at that point was being deployed to distribute essential medical goods only. So our mission here was to find solutions to get our customers’ fresh products out of country and to market.

Suffice to say, our people burned the candle at both ends to address this bottleneck situation. We not only introduced innovative solutions, such as a Sea-Air service to move product, but we also worked closely with our major air carrier partners to bring passenger freighters into the market. I am so grateful for their willingness and ability to step up—so too are the people of Ecuador and Colombia that desperately needed to keep local commerce alive.

Next Steps

Prime Group is made up of professionals who know how to act fast on their feet. Through their creative thinking, innate agility, and commitment to our customers, we were not only able to survive those darkest days, but to reposition the company to go forward.

The next phase of the global fight against the spread of COVID-19 is massive distribution of vaccines, medicines, and related supplies. This will continue well into 2021 and beyond. I am so grateful we made it through the storm and will be able to keep doing our part for the health of the world.

Miles to Go

Though we are moving into a new and better year ahead, my concern for the safety of our customers, our employees, our company—and the world—is still top of mind. After all, we have many hurdles and responsibilities to fulfill before the last chapter of this pandemic closes. Or to paraphrase the immortal words of Robert Frost, we have miles to go before we sleep.

This holiday season, all of us here at Prime Group wish you moments of peace amid the difficulties, connections with family and friends even if they can’t be in person, and the warmth of memories from holidays past.

Stay safe and healthy!